As part of the Asia TOPA festival, the Filipino play Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands should stand out as one of the greatest pieces in absurdist and even Dada-esque theatre productions. In a clearly “non-political” approach (please read between the lines folks) that obviously does not make thinly-veiled swipes at the situation in that country (as well as some unsubtle backhands at the Australian situation as well), this is a play that was well done and thoroughly enjoyable.
If thee was ever any theatre piece that would situate itself perfectly in the late Weimar political play schtick, this is it. Gaudy costumes, plots that ring with nationalistic nonsense (and thus poke fun at it), and ridiculous meta fourth wall breaking all would be perfectly part of something from the famous Dada haunt of Club Voltaire. But the play makes the audience work for this realization – despite the ridiculousness of it all, the acidic bite and angry undermining of all things in the play only comes apparent when it incorporated the unique Filipino styles into the performance. On that note, the Filipino styles were what made the play unique and stand out really. Apart from the start, this was not just some rehash of dull tropes, but a proper subversion of subversions, undermining the play structure and making fun of everything sacred, but also showing real respect where it was actually due – in the human and quirky elements of Filipino culture. Truly kicking up instead of down. Street beauty pageants, political protests, underground hip-hop battles, all make an appearance and make the performance quite engaging and interesting.
As always, there were weaknesses. Some of the scenes, in the beginning, felt forced and superfluous, and did not ease the audience in as effectively as could have been done; on top of that they were not overly original in their approach and thus were not as memorable as from the middle point onwards. The venue, whilst impressive, could have been chosen better – the sound in many cases went sailing into the rafters, leaving it hard to hear some of the comments onstage. And, whilst it was a plus, having sections in Tagalog with key punchlines there was an inspired and beneficial move, but one that left those who do not have any connection to the language (read, this reviewer) a little out of their depth.
Overall, a brilliantly subversive and fun performance, worthy of a long line of Dada-esque plays that have come before it. Definitely a fine addition to the Asia TOPA festival.