Shakespeare’s works are considered masterpieces for a reason. No matter how archaic their use of language seems, they never fail to unveil some universal truths that remain applicable to this day. In fact, these veracities are not lost, even when the texts are translated into different languages.
Such is the case with Makbet, the Tagalog translation of Macbeth by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio. In his translation, even metaphors and figures of speech are given local flavors, making them more accessible to the local audience. Yet, the message remains clear: Macbeth is more than just a tale of murders and ambition.
This translation was recently brought to life by the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Arts and Culture Cluster (BCC). Directed by Nonon Padilla, Makbet was shown from March 22 to April 1, 2017. It featured a combination of both seasoned and young actors. The big names included George De Jesus (Makbet), Irma Adlawan (Senyora Makbet), Andrew Cruz (Macduff), and Joey Paras (Portero). DLS-CSB President, Br. Dennis Magbanua, FSC, played the role of Haring Duncan. Gino Gonzales was the set and costume designer, while Naomi Matsumoto was the lighting consultant. Several BCC students were also involved in the production.
Interesting mix of different cultures
According to Director Nonon Padilla, Makbet is more of an interpretation than an adaptation. Instead of sticking to the conventions, the production decided to make it a meeting point of different cultures. The characters’ attires, for instance, had a strong resemblance with the Japanese kimono. They had all these while dropping foreign names of places and characters and speaking in Tagalog.
Clever use of space and materials
Although inspired by real events, Shakespeare’s Macbeth also involves apparitions, hallucinations, and even witches. Sure, we have already seen a lot of productions deal with the same elements in certain way, but Makbet’s was different. Here, witches were not the usual bruhas wearing tall pointed hats while ghosts used ropes as they haunted the living, signifying the connection that wouldn’t be cut. Even death was portrayed in a symbolic way.
Banquo’s assassination, for example, was executed by using a red take to attach his body on the floor. It stayed there, even while the celebration of Macbeth’s kingship was ongoing.
Impressive use of multimedia elements
BACC’s Makbet also deserves praise for using multimedia elements throughout the play. In some parts of it, an ensemble member would take a video of the scene which was then shown on the screens provided at the venue. These included scenes that took place on spots other than the designated main stage. In some cases, the actors were even stationed on an elevated surface, giving the audience a more unique theatrical experience.
High level of engagement
I was able to see the show on the evening of April 1st and was moved by it. A question and answer portion followed the play, during which a member of the audience claimed to have seen elements that reminded her of extra-judicial killings or EJKs and asked Nonon if these were intended. Yet, according to the director, if anyone noticed similar things, then it was their reading or interpretation. He also emphasized that if it were the case, then the show was able to do something it was meant to—to engage people.
Dynamic artistic process
It was also fascinating to know that even some of the aspects of the play that helped things go on a different light were not planned at all. One fine example would be the use of the rope that was mentioned earlier. In fact, it was something they just thought of along the way. Indeed, it was a reflection of how dynamic their creative process was. Like the story, it was also unfolding and letting them learn lessons that they would take with them.
Makbet was thought-provoking on different levels. Besides challenging theatrical conventions and fueling more ideas on theater arts and production, it was also able to awaken thoughts on a lot of things, even some current societal issues. With all these, I could say that this particular production has given me more hope for this art form, as well as the local theater scene.
Benilde’s Arts & Culture Cluster