The biggest popstar of the Philippines has been kidnapped, and it’s up to a ragtag squad of fans to bring her back. They’ll brave rooftop chases, mystic rituals, knife fights in the back of speeding jeepneys and underwater shoot-outs to liberate their idol from a conspiracy that threatens to tear their country apart.
Over one explosive night this vigilante crew of pop obsessives, misfits and outsiders race the streets of Manila, careening between street beauty pageants, political protests, underground hip-hop battles and senator’s homes. The Melbourne Critique spoke with director JK Anicoche about this epic performance,
So let’s kick off this interview, what is the concept that is behind this work, how has it emerged and further developed from its inception?
This is a full-blown action film musical that follows a group of fans who set out to rescue a kidnapped Filipino popstar, and in doing so uncover an explosive conspiracy to bring down society that can only be stopped by TAKING THE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS.
Sipat Lawin is a site-specific community theatre company based in Manila who have spent the last few years creating participatory community projects. This show came out of an urge to get back in the theatre and make something massive and explosive that shows off the fact that the whole company are triple threat singers, dancers and actors.
It went on in Manila in 2018 and I guess the real development is that this is the first time it’s being shared to an international audience, holy shit Melbourne, this is the most Filipino thing about to happen to you, and it has been VERY CHALLENGING trying to figure out how to compress this massive 3.5 hour saga into 90 highly charged minutes.
What have been some of the challenges faced while creating this work, and how were these overcome?
I mean the show is huge, and when we did it in Manila last time it was with a cast of 30 and an audience that were involved most of the way singing, dancing and joining in. We know that Australian audiences are much more sober and restrained – so the challenge was, how do we contain all that action and energy into what’s happening on stage, and then share it out to the audience even while they’re sitting in seats (the Manila audience did not have seats).
But the real challenge, and the biggest heartbreak, is that we’ve had to compress the underwater chase sequence through the Pasig River into 60 seconds. Honestly, what you’ll see this month will be like watching a huge epic movie at triple speed.
How important is music to this performance, and what role does music play more broadly within your own lives and creative practices?
This show is a huge celebration of Filipino pop music. One of the key reasons for us wanting to share the work internationally was the opportunity to share this stunning soundtrack and the experience of 50 years of classic Pinoy pop. The soundtrack moves from classic folk anthems from the 1960s and 70s, through to big iconic Filipino stadium rock, underground hiphop, viral dance classes mixed with traditional Indigenous music, and huge power ballads. All of that music is a huge part of everyday life in the Philippines, and because Manila is such a huge, chaotic city, all of those sounds rub up against each other – taxis playing noisy pop-song mashups out the window mix with kareoke bars, street percussion and viral hits played on people’s phones. The show will be as close to the sonic experience of walking through Manila on a Saturday night as you can get.
As an audience, walking into this performance, what should they expect, or perhaps not expect, from this work?
What you should expect is GLAMOUR. We will be dressed to kill. You can wear what you want, but fyi, we’re gonna pretty ourselves up for you, because you deserve a little sparkle in your life.
What should you not expect? Well, the show is not about the current political situation. At all. There are no political themes, it’s not related to anything you may have read about in the news from the Philippines recently, there’s no politics, at all. At all.
What role does art and creativity play in your day to day lives, and what would life be like without art?
It’s the driving force, hey. It’s the means by which we process the world, organise and care for each other, and do our best to care for and delight each other. How bout you?
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