Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review of Artist Playground's PRELUDE TO MACBETH: Prescience and Powerplay

February 25, 2017

This is the first time I had seen Artist Playground tackle an English play since their inception two years ago when all the plays they staged were in Filipino. This English play they have chosen to open their third year is no ordinary English play, but one featuring the so-called "heightened text" like that used by Shakespeare. Those facts alone make this play "Prelude to Macbeth" by James Chalmers a must-see for me.

To keep him in loyal service, King Duncan of Scotland offered his best general Macbeth the position of Thane of Glamis. Meanwhile in the forest, poor destitute lass Lorna Stewart was told by three Spirits that she will become the Queen of Scotland. This play tells the story of how Macbeth and his Lady meet and achieved their position prior to the events of Shakespeare's classic tragedy "Macbeth."

Fortunately for me, I just reviewed the story of Macbeth last year when I watched and wrote the review of the 2015 film "Macbeth" (MY REVIEW) starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles. Therefore being able to connect this prequel with the actual events of the play made watching this very well-plotted "Prelude" with its naughty sense of humor very interesting and engaging. 

The opening scene alone with the three Spirits and their multi-purpose cloaks was already one helluva great attention-grabber. From there, the play won't let us go anymore until 40 minutes later when it ends. Granted we all know how it will end, Chalmers kept us enraptured in the witty story rich in prophecies and intrigues en route to that inevitable conclusion. I liked that the cast did not go overboard in trying to sound too authentic British or Scottish. This made the delivery of the verses clear and understandable. 

Paul Jake Paule plays the steadfast soldier Macbeth as moody and morose as we know Shakespeare's Macbeth to be. Paule had never been in an English-language play before, and joked that this play had caused him to become anemic due to constant "nosebleed." 

The more arresting and fascinating role, however, belonged to Jernice Matunan as Lorna Stewart, the future Lady Macbeth. Matunan confidently attacked her rich role with all her ego, wit and allure -- a true star-making performance for this young lady pilot. Her sweet face and smile makes her malignant ambition even more sinister. Every little smirk was in character. (Cathrine Go alternates as Lorna.)

The three young actresses who played the Spirits (Spirit 1 Tasha  Guerrero; Spirit 2 Kia Del Rosario and Spirit 3 Princess Tuazonwere simply fantastic in their haunting portrayal. With their heavily-made up pale and gaunt faces with ugly scars and disheveled hair, they looked eerie and frightful. Their delivery of lines was over-the-top dramatic with moaning, stridor and wheezing after every word, which made their prescient pronouncements sound even more ominous and dangerous. (Jeremy Cabansag alternates as Spirit 3.)

Veteran actor Andre Tiangco struck a regal figure onstage as King Duncan. Among the cast, he was clearly the one most comfortable with the British verse. (Mitoy Sta. Ana alternates as Duncan.) Jarden de Guzman relished his role as palace guard Callum McLeod and played this comic role with glee. His insolent antics had the audience in stitches, especially in that raunchy scene with Lorna.

You have to hand it to Production Designer Reynoso Mercado and Lighting Director Juan Carlo Pacheco for succeeding to create an illusion of width and depth within the limited confines of the Little Room Upstairs. Credit goes to Banaue Miclat-Janssen for her meticulous work as Speech Consultant with the cast, who were non-English speakers in real life. The music of Jesse Lucas enhanced the somber Scottish atmosphere. 

Princess Tuazon, Jernice Matunan, Paul Jake Paule 
and director Roeder Camanag at the curtain call

Biggest kudos to Director Roeder Camanag for impressively bringing this highly entertaining one-act play to life for us. He has bigger plans for this play to be re-staged a prelude to an actual production of an abridged version of "Macbeth" sometime this July. That should be a most exciting project to look forward to. Artist Playground is undoubtedly headed for bigger things.


The schedule of performances of "Prelude to Macbeth" are: February 23-26, 2017, Thursday and Friday at 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm and 7 pm. Venue is at 1701 The Little Room Upstairs, Landsdale Tower, Mother Ignacia Ave. near Timog Avenue, Quezon City. For tickets and inquiries, visit Artist Playground's Facebook page or contact 09759193179.

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