Fringe Manila has begun and I think I’m ready for the onslaught of all the shows that are coming. I had already bought my tickets for the next two weeks and I’m a little intimidated by the amount of performances I’m going to be watching and I hope that I can still process them and enjoy them individually and not start lumping them up together.
That’s my fear, really, that I’ll be watching all these shows — one after the other — and I won’t have a chance to let anyone of them settle. I don’t know how other people do it; watch all these productions and not get the full effect of each because they are absorbing a whole new set of ideas and performances.
But I really want to support these amazing companies and artists and I want to watch as many of these new productions as I can. There are a lot of them that are really, really promising.
The other night, I got to see the first performance of F(R)ICTION, a new musical with a book by Bym Buhain and Miyo Sta. Maria and lyrics and music by Ejay Yatco with the direction of Toff De Venecia and starring Red Concepcion, Gabriela Pangalinan, and Myke Salomon.
I had issues with the play itself. It needed to be fleshed out a lot more and it lacked specificity in its world. I had a hard time figuring out the lived-in details of the characters and I found that the dialogue approached its subject matter too directly that it sounded crafted and inorganic. Toff De Venecia did an amazing job of taking the material and materialising the materials metaphorical world and made it real on stage. It helped flesh out the missing parts from the play itself.
But two elements made the show amazing to see. One was the songs written by Ejay Yatco, which put breath and life into the script and gave it the necessary width in the characterisations that the script lacked. And Yatco’s music is just so beautiful. It’s the kind of musical score from a Broadway musical that I liked. I had likened Yatco’s original compositions to Stephen Flaherty’s music from Once on this Island and even Ragtime. It’s intricate and melodious and it really makes you want to sing along. Some of the lyrics could still be made better but he had one or two songs that matched Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics (also from Once on this Island and Ragtime). The songs were great and because it fleshed out the characters more and made me connect with them, I wanted more songs (there were only about 7 or 8) in the production.
The other element that made it all work was the cast. Red Concepcion, Myke Salomon, and Gabriela Pangilinan were just incredible. With the characters still not developed fully in the text, they were able to imbue each of their roles with such humanity that it filled in the gaps. And they sang so well and they didn’t break character to sing (like some people do) but acted through each performance. They weren’t just singing, they were acting in song and it was magnificent. And these three are such good singers.
As a brand new work, F(R)ICTION will still be improved and is considered “under development” and it’s great, for me anyway, to see it in its first production. The team already picked up notes from this first showing and will make adjustments for their second show on February 27 and their third show on March 1. I’m excited to see what happens and if they do another run at a later time, it will be even better.
The foundation is already there. The improvements won’t be that difficult, and if they can add just a few more songs, then it will be great. I’m so sure of it.
Today, I’m watching Reconfigure by the Daloy Dance Company and then Boy in the Bathroom by The Sandbox Collective. It’s going to be harrowing to move from the College of St. Benilde — School of Design and Arts on one show and then shuttle to CCP right after to catch the next one but I’ve seen Dysmorphilia (which is one of the twin-billed productions in Reconfigure) and Boy in the Bathroom at last year’s Imaginarium and I know I’m going to enjoy seeing both again but this time, with new notes and direction. The organic nature of performance art is that it can be improved with later performances and new venues. The venues add something to the mix and adjustments will have to be made and this can alter things, even slightly.
Part of Reconfigure is The Sky Changed by PJ Rebullida, which is a contemporary dance ballet I haven’t seen yet, so there’s still a bit of surprise waiting for me later. It got great praise when it first showed at the WIFI Body Contemporary Dance Festival last year. So that’s pretty amazing.
Im really excited for today.
Tomorrow, I’m watching Manhid by Ballet Philippines and on Sunday, I’m catching In|Stall|Ment by Airdance. And then a whole string of more shows next week.
It’s going to be great if my mind doesn’t explode first.