Thanks to a spontaneous invite from a few friends, I managed to catch Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s rendition of Batoru Rowaiaru – Battle Royale. Battalia Royale is a live-action game, an SRO play without the standard separation between stage and audience. I walked into the abandoned Victoria School with a vague idea of what was to come, having taken cues from various online reviews and pictures of the earlier runs. I expected the blood yes, but not the perspective, and certainly not taking sides with Murder.
The basic plot is this: 40 students unwillingly take part in a game of death. They are fitted with a collar that tracks their movements within the “arena” and are given a weapon each. The rule is kill or be killed. The catch is, if more than one student remains alive after 8 hours, everyone dies. So, can you kill a classmate? I bet my high school memories would have been more… colorful given the same premise.
Not surprisingly, a lot of students did play the game – play with their heads, their skills, and their *ehem* bodies. I rooted for Kakai, the manipulative bee-yotch, and so did most of the audience (she rose from the dead demmit! who can beat that??). My fave of the “families” was the Triangle. I didn’t see how Lucky and Julius met their ends but, in my opinion, they were played by the best actors of the bunch.
The Name of the Game is
It wasn’t exactly choosing your weapon, it was choose a sack with a weapon, good luck! The ice pick would have made anyone an intimidating underdog in the game, but with Rae half naked while wielding it is definitely hot. The craziest weapons are the air freshener, the fork, and the water gun. The grisliest are hammer and nails, the broken bottle, and the baseball bat. Guns? Loser. Have someone wielding a gun face someone with a fan and it’s not that difficult to predict who the crowd favorite will be. I wanted this, but I guess it was too much to ask for! The choose your weapon part was one I anticipated to see. Too bad it wasn’t a major portion of the production.
The Theater Experience
Staging the play as SRO attributed to the overall experience. Our penchant for violence is satiated with a closer view of the act of murder, despite the use of fake blood and weapons, and the suspension of disbelief warranted by the medium itself: theater. Even a harmless spattering of fake blood creates a blood lust and rage almost too real you have to contain yourself from real-life rages.
We all know that feeling too well – it’s similar to the lust for revenge after being pawned in DOTA. Only this time, Sipat Lawin offers an opportunity for us to feel that alongside other viewers and without the restraint of the screen. In a way, having other people screaming for blood makes violence acceptable. Group think. What is morally more disagreeable becomes the norm, and it kind of makes you rethink human behavior in general.
But back to the play.
I heard they’re having reruns, and if they do, catch them! It won’t be right to say you’d miss half your life if you didn’t. But you will miss all that gory mess that comes after it.