Directed by Audie Gemora, Balad at Angud is the retelling of installation artist Junyee’s life
Over the weekend, the doors of CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino theater opened for Balag at Angud. Written by Palanca Award-winner Layeta Bucoy and directed by none other than Audie Gemora, the musical telling of the life of protest and installation artist Junyee was humbling in its aspirations.
Balag at Angud stars Rody Vera, Dune Michael Garcia and Paw Castillo as Junyee at various stages in his life, Jonathan Tadioan as Junyee’s father, Astarte Abraham as Marites and Mia Bolaños as Felisa. The responsibility of playing the vital role of Musa, Junyee’s muse, fell onto a young Krystle Campos and veteran musician Bayang Barrios.
The musical begins as Junyee, then only known as Jun, is finishing high school. Pressured to take up Commerce by his father Luis, Jun makes the difficult decision to go on his own and pursue a Fine Arts degree. Barely making ends meet and at a job he never envisioned for himself, he fights through for the love of his craft, the message he wants to deliver and the protests he empowers.
Without downplaying the plot, the artist’s struggle is a story we’ve all seen and heard before. The novelty of Balag at Angud, therefore, is really in its production. The music of Dodgie Fernandez and Upeng Fernandez partnered with the choreography of Ava Villanueva Ong was a spectacle to witness. The costume designs of James Reyes and the set design of Toym Imao likewise gave life to the stage. And thanks to spectacular performances (by Vera and Barrios, in particular), Junyee’s life presents an age-old tale in new light.
That said, the musical might have been more holistic if it leaned heavier on its young talents, as this would have given the story an innocence and carelessness that it sometimes lacked. The themes were undoubtedly heavy and with comedic moments few and far between, the atmosphere was dark for a three-hour sit down—but perhaps that was the point.
And while it is understood that Balag at Angud followed the life of Junyee, a harsher spotlight on his installations, protest art and, more specifically, the effect these had on his audience would have made the entire show more powerful. Moments could have been given to the ensemble in order to highlight the movements that Junyee helped set in motion.
Don’t get me wrong, the political tones, authenticity and relevance of the musical cannot be denied. But a more one-on-one connection to the characters as a member of the audience would have made the experience more personal and relatable.
Nevertheless, Balag at Angud is proof that Filipino talent, when given the avenue to flourish, flourishes. As the show proves, Junyee’s struggle is our struggle because his story is our story and there’s the hope that, at the very least, we can (and should) persevere as he did.
Art Alexandra Lara