I watched a Dulaang UP play a few weeks ago: The Nawawalang Kapatid. This is what I have to say about it…
Floy Quintos’ Ang Nawalang Kapatid, a musical adaptation of the Mahabharata was a high-octane, adrenaline-charged play that utilized plenty of gimmicks in order to keep the audience glued to their seats. Such strategies are also employed in many forms of mass media such as advertising and television. Our obsession with spectacles is most evident in those noontime shows that the Filipino masses faithfully subscribe to. The question is, how do we process the play and its usage of intense vigor on stage? Also, how does the play differ from the noontime shows that are in mainstream Filipino media who also employ similar devices?
If there was a term that I could use for mass media, it would be controlled chaos. Mass media has the power to tell stories, beliefs, viewpoints and opinions in any way they choose – be it through straightforward messages or creatively subtle ones. The controlled chaos that was employed in Ang Nawalang Kapatid used high-energy maneuvers in order to reel us in and keep us interested, while implanting the message that they desire to impart in our minds with a slow burn. The storyline was grandiose and mythical, with Hindu gods and royals, and this helped in preventing the moral of the story from seeming too on the nose. (the writer) used majestic plot devices such as mystical weapons of power not only to empower the play’s mythology but also to give it some much-needed layers. The gimmicks that were used in Ang Nawalang Kapatid made the experience more interactive, with the audience coming to the realization of the play’s message, not spoon-feeding it to them, and helped keep the play’s plot from being too straightforward.
The controlled chaos that is shown in noontime shows, however, is a lot less glamorous and a there is a greater emphasis that is placed on the ‘controlled’ part of controlled chaos. I have been to a live showing of one of these noontime shows and although it was moderately entertaining, there was little to no attempt at subtlety when it came to its purpose. Television is a business, and it was made very obvious in this noontime show – with the hosts seeking to further their brands and bleeding every potentially funny joke dry. Before the cameras rolled, we were taught the choreography for the show’s theme song. In that moment, my eyes were opened to just how controlled the show is, to the point where it became clunky and robotic. Every episode of the noontime show just went through the motions – pleasing the masses but giving them nothing to remember, entertaining them but giving them nothing to think about. It was bad television – leaving nothing to the imagination, but since it plays to the common needs of the Filipino people – offensive humor and sympathy, it remains to be the main attraction in Philippine television.
I guess that’s just how business really is – too scared to innovate but will immediately jump to any new fad. The high energy in Ang Nawalang Kapatid helped give the play some much-needed depth, and also helped us remember the play (and consequently, think about it) by making sure its images are embedded in our brains. Meanwhile, the usage of audio and visuals try to paint noontime shows as a lot of fun, but it’s really just a ploy for ratings. It bombards the Filipinos with a lot of jokes, choreography, humor and soundbytes but it never really sticks into our heads. The spectacle shown in noontime TV isn’t good controlled chaos, for I believe that good controlled chaos makes you think, but it sure makes for some good ratings.