Battalia Royale in Manila

I just arrived back in Australia this week, after a month in the Philippines working on a project in Manila. I’ve been collaborating with a company called Sipat Lawin Ensemble on a new play entitled Battalia Royale. It’s a loose adaptation of a Japanese pulp novel about a class of 15 year olds who are kidnapped while on a school excursion and forced to battle one another to the death. It’s partway between Lord of the Flies and Mean Girls, lots of spectacular action set-pieces and teenagers confessing their romantic crushes in between fights.

Myself and three other Australian playwrights are writing the script, inspired by Koushon Takami’s novel. Over the last month we’ve been working with the ensemble testing out scene ideas, devising action sequences and coming up with characters. The performers have been incredible, really passionate, skilled and driven – to the extent that they’ve each created a Facebook profile for their character, and they’re interacting online with one another completely in the world of the play. Weird and unsettling, but really valuable.

The other exciting thing is the venue – the show is taking place in an old prison in the Spanish Quarter of Manila. It’s a proper 16th century ruined fort, with mossy walls to stage fights on and lots of nooks and crannies for secret scenes.

This project has been a pipe dream for me and the director since we started talking about it in Manila in 2008, so it’s amazing that it’s finally happening. I won’t be able to see the production in February, but it’s incredible to have been part of a process such as this at all.

- David Finnigan (Australia), You Are Here Festival

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