From the blue corner of Katipunan: Antigone vs. The People Of The Philippines
If you’ve dipped your head in some ancient Greek literature, the name Antigone might be familiar to you—or at least its writer, Sophocles, would be. But if you’re a newb to the genre like me, here’s a little summary of our heroine’s narrative:
Once upon a time, Antigone’s brother, Polynices, was accused of treason against his city. As part of his sentence, his body was to remain unburied on the battlefield. Thinking this unjust, Antigone vows to bury her brother’s body, in complete defiance of ruler and dictator Creon’s orders. Naturally, ol’ Creon questions Antigone and the two go into a debate about morality.
Ismene, the innocent sister of Antigone, is brought in for an interrogation as well. Creon’s son and Antigone’s betrothed, Haemon, first puts his loyalty to his father—then asks for his lover’s reprieve.
Pretty much the same happens in Antigone vs. The People Of The Philippines, written by Tanghalang Ateneo alum Sabrina Basilio and directed by Theatre Arts senior Tara Jamora Oppen—except, of course, some key differences that bring the story to an alternate 2019 Philippines.
For one thing, Antigone gets her day in court, where she’s questioned and she defends her actions and is put face to face against her accusers. Another is that they tackle not only the illegal burial of her brother; they talk extrajudicial killings, the war on drugs, the transport crisis, mining operations and so much more. But what might be more worthwhile to note is that it poses a question to its audiences: Is Antigone a hero of the marginalized or is she acting selfishly?
This question is asked directly to the audience. After all, the play is called Antigone vs. The People Of The Philippines—and the verdict, the decision, the sentence, is put in the hands of watchers. You are made to take a stand, to make a choice and to (literally) stand up for it. Your vote finally counts—which means the outcome depends on who you’re watching with.
It’s a tall order, discussing something of this caliber. Taking inspiration from Sophocles and taking the story of Antigone into 21st century Philippines is courageous, but Tanghalang Ateneo makes a believable case. The acting is passionate—it helps that Basilio took the casts’ research and personal opinions into consideration—and the use of the Black Box Theater is optimal (albeit messy sometimes).
It might take a while get the hang of the story’s flow, but it all makes sense once you get used to it. There is an issue presented, which the prosecution and the defense take turns tackling. And then you decide whose side you’re on.
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Want part of the conversation? Want to see this story unfold? Want to be part of the outcome? Antigone vs. The People Of The Philippines shows until this weekend. Get your tickets here.
Art Alexandra Lara