‘Battle Royale’: Novel and film now a street play

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SCENE from “Battalia Royale”

Sipat Lawin Ensemble has collaborated with several Australian playwrights to develop a performance adaptation of “Battle Royale”—the controversial novel by Koushun Takami that  spawned a movie version and a manga version.

“Battle Royale” is set in a dystopian Japan where a classroom of high-school students is taken by a totalitarian government to an island and forced to kill each other until only one survivor remains.  Everyone is fitted with a collar that will explode should they try to escape the island or refuse to kill other students.

“The novel explores similar themes in ‘Lord of the Flies.’ It’s a sharp satire on society’s need for increasingly visceral entertainment,” says SLE artistic director JK Anicoche.

“Our script has three different endings. Every show will have one of the three different endings, depending on what happens that night.”

This “stage” version (the work is intended for on-site outdoor performances) titled “Battalia Royale” will involve 40 actors.  Bodjie Pascua will play the classroom’s teacher.

Page to stage

Anicoche, who spent a year living in Japan, had always wanted to stage the material.  When his group staged David Finnigan’s “To Heat You Up and Cool You Down” in Penguin Café, Malate, in 2009, he found out Finnigan had been working on an improv routine based on the novel. They began collaborating.

Last year, they included filmmakers Sam Burns-Warr and Georgie McAuley, and writer Jordan Prosser in a month-long collaborative devising process to finalize a script.

“David and the other three playwrights came to Manila using their own money to work with SLE to devise the scenes and script,” says Anicoche.  “They would set parameters, our actors would create the scene with Pinoy sensibilities, they wrote accordingly.”

Ensemble

Sipat Lawin Ensemble usually performs “deconstructed” works that highlight collaborative development and ensemble acting.  The group usually performs in alternative or non-theater spaces like living rooms, parks, bars, bathrooms, etc.

They recently staged a Tagalog “jejemon” translation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” retitled as “R’MeoW <3’s JHuLEz.” The production was performed in a barangay community basketball court, used delivery devices such as rap and flip-top, and had choreography that included hip-hop and krumping.

Online and real world

For “Battalia,” Anicoche directs.  Jazz band Radioactive Sago Project collaborates with Teresa Barrozo (scorer of Brillante Mendoza’s “Kinatay”) for the production’s sound design.

SLE  also plans on publishing an online database of characters and weapons. (In the movie, the tools assigned to the students were luck of the draw, some getting weapons such as a machine gun and some getting items such as a paper fan.)

After it premieres at the main driveway ramp of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, plans are underway for possible performances in one of the prison cells in Fort Santiago and a warehouse in a yet-to-be-decided location.  For certain productions and performances, the group announces their venues only a few days prior through their online social networking accounts.

“Battalia Royale” runs March 10-11 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Call 0917-5008753; e-mail sipatlawin.ensemble@gmail.com; or add the group’s Facebook page.

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