In 2016 no fewer than 44 showbiz celebrities sat in the Filipino Parliament. But making star power more important than policy has an obvious downside – glamour helped keep the kleptocracy of Ferdinand Marcos in power for decades.
On the surface, Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands is a vibrant and colourful pop-culture action-adventure – think Charlie’s Angels meets MTV.
The plot resembles a Hollywood blockbuster. Popstar Gracielle V (Blanche Buhia) is abducted from a concert, the crime witnessed by teenage superfan Selina (Ji-ann Lachica). With her virtue-signalling human rights activist older sister (Claudia Enriquez) and a sympathetic policewoman (Adrienne Vergara), Selina must find and rescue her idol.
The three vigilantes go into the backstreets and across the rooftops of Manila, where they stumble into a beauty pageant dominated by a Christian pop songstress with a glitzy take on conservative values and a flair for melodrama.
Our heroines eventually confront the kidnappers in superbly choreographed fight scenes which fuse contemporary dance and music styles.
Meanwhile, a progressive senator sings a siren song of compassion for the masses, and the show keeps breaking the fourth wall into metatheatre, with director JK Anicoche interviewed by David Finnigan as the slippery backstage reality delivers savage irony and dramatic reversal.
Behind the glossy projections and edgy fashions, the ultra-slick dance moves and remorseless entertainment, there’s a hall of mirrors where art and propaganda become almost indistinguishable. It makes for gut-wrenching, unsettling subtext.
However avowedly “not political” this show may claim to be, probably the closest analogues in European culture would be the work of Belarus Free Theatre and Pussy Riot, or Brecht in Threepenny Opera mode.
The talent, courage and urgency that fuel this all-singing, all-dancing satire of celebrity culture make electrifying theatre.