Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) is currently staging Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in English and Filipino, using Nicolas Pichay’s translation. Joel Lamangan and Leo Rialp play the titular character, in Filipino and English, respectively.
Director Tony Mabesa, DUP’s founding artistic director emeritus, has transplanted the action from ancient Britain to “the waning years of a Southeast Asian kingdom.”
This production comes on the heels of Nonon Padilla’s 2012 all-male staging using Bienvenido Lumbera’s translation for Philippine Educational Theater Association. (Anton Juan cast Repertory Philippines founder Zenaida Amador as Lear in his 2001 staging.)
Padilla employed a post-apocalyptic setting with Gino Gonzales’ Japanese-inspired costume design. The production toured Taiwan last year for the Kuandu Arts Festival and had a restaging earlier this year with Bernardo Bernardo as Lear.
To help bring to life Mabesa’s own vision of Shakespeare’s mighty tragedy, Eric Pineda did the costume design and Ohm David the set design.
“What automatically came to me was the ruins of Angkor Wat, complete with the gigantic roots of balete trees,” says David.
His design, based on research using different books from the UP Library, was constructed by 20 students assisted and guided by four professional carpenters. DUP is under the university’s Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which offers certificate and degree programs in Theater Arts.
Pineda points out that the reality of designing for a campus-based theater group is “the very limited budget. Hence, Ohm and I agreed not to interpret the period and setting in a literal sense.”
This framework gave both designers leeway to incorporate a more encompassing Southeast Asian visual vocabulary instead of a specific country’s limiting choices. It also gave them freedom to use and reinterpret existing costumes, props and set pieces from past productions. For example, costumes from DUP’s “Ang Nawalang Kapatid”—Floy Quintos’ adaptation of the “Mahabharata,” designed by Gino Gonzales—have been recycled for this production.
For costume silhouettes, Pineda created a crown and breastplate for Lear inspired by bas relief images of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII, found in Angkor Wat.
“The two evil sisters, Goneril and Regan, have Thai references in their costumes, especially in their chada headdresses (jeweled spired crowns),” he says.
To push the contrast in personality, he gave the good sister Cordelia’s costumes a more Peranakan (Chinese-Malaysian) look.
“Tony wanted me to interpret Lear’s Fool as a babaylan,” says Pineda. “I gave his costume a Balinese feel.”
Pineda’s goal was to meld these different countries’ costumes and influences to highlight commonality in Southeast Asian clothing. “We have the same climate, topography and vegetation, resulting in similar dyes, fabrics and weaves,” he says.
The play’s movement and choreography, meanwhile, are by Jeremy dela Cruz, with lighting design by Meliton Roxas Jr., sound design by Jethro Joaquin. DUP’s artistic director is Dexter Santos.
Dulaang UP’s “King Lear/Haring Lear” has remaining performances today and tomorrow at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines Diliman. Call tel. 9261349, 4337840, 9818500 loc. 2449; or e-mail [email protected] Visit fb.com/DulaangUnibersidadNgPilipinas.