Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Night of Laughters with Peepolykus

I got personal invitation by my theater mentor, Sunnie C. Noel of the MSU Sining Kambayoka, to watch the play All in the Timing and join a workshop of UK’s Peepolykus, an Edinburgh Festival winner. Such was an invitation that was very difficult to refuse. So without second thoughts, I headed for Cagayan de Oro City last July 3, 2006.

All in the Timing was performed at the Rodelsa Hall of Liceo de Cagayan University. I met Integrated Performing Arts Guild’s Steve Patrick Fernandez, Red Lambago Arts Collective’s Hobart Savior, Sining Kabpapagariya’s Romeo Narvaez, MSU’s Speech Communication and Theater Arts Head Prof Francisco Amarillo and Sining Kambayoka’s Eustess Guia and Sunnie Noel. It was like a little gathering of Mindanao directors.

The play is a series of short plays that dispel stress, anxiety and depression written by the American playwright David Ives. The 3 male actors (John Nicholson, David Sant and Francisco Javier Marzan) did a wonderful job changing from characters to characters. They were very astounding. No wonder they got the Edinburgh Fringe First Award for Comedy.

The actors made the scripts come alive with their excellent characterizations from chimps, to elderly, to workers and to old grandmas etc. They carefully embodied not only the clothings and voices but also even the smallest nuances of each character. Only actors who have done years of training and actual working can make a performance “believable” for the audience. And Peepolykus just did it in front of our eyes. They made every single character visually striking and unforgettable. Who would ever forget the chimps that attempted to write Hamlet, the lady and the man in the cafĂ©, the workers assuming to be somebody’s lost child, the Trotsky characters, the grannies preparing the funeral breakfast. And my favourite of the night – learning the universal language! I couldn’t stop laughing with how the words were translated into another word: Isadora (from Isadora Duncan) to mean door, Rhumba to mean room, Waltz to mean wall, Cha Cha to mean chair and a lot more. I have done gibberish in my theater training in Singapore, but they were amazingly wonderful. I closely associated that piece to gay lingo. I told Hobart after the show that if we pushed through our plan to make a gay lingo play, we will be poor copycats for Peepolykus have done great job with using gibberish language.

All the three actors were able to take on every fine detail of the characters. It is just a clear manifestation of hard work on character’s details, which most contemporary actors fail to do. All in the Timing is indeed a powerful comedy play that delves into issues of social classes, poking into historical and political figures as well as the absurdity of life. On a superficial manner, the play was a lot of fun. But behind those funny scenes lie issues, which maybe we ignore. It was funny inasmuch as it was moving as well.

The next day (July 4), I joined the 2-hour workshop that Peepolykus conducted. I was lucky to have joined and observed both the morning and the afternoon workshops. The workshops were conducted to different sets of workshoppers. The sessions were not very new to me, having worked on those exercises in Singapore. But what interested me to observe the workshop was the way they used body and text in performance that I saw the previous night. As actor and director, I was a bit disappointed. Maybe I wanted to know more about their amazing work. I know that a 2-hour workshop won’t exactly feed me with lots of skills, but at least I got a peep about their way of working on improvisations. It was indeed an eye-opener.

I maybe trained professionally in contemporary acting, but that doesn’t make me a good actor or director. It is years of practice and hard work that made an actor commendable. And I just saw it with Peepolykus, a truly amazing company of visually creative actors.

I am looking forward to see these kinds of performances in Mindanao. Maybe it is about time that Mindanao will venture into a new era of theatre making. Well, Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) has started this kind of work already – with Bak2Bak that I saw at Grand Caprice Hotel last May 12, 2006.

The British Council, Liceo de Cagayan University and Hotel Koresco presented Peepolykus’ All in the Timing in Cagayan de Oro City, which ran last July 3-4, 2006.

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