New Musical Noli Me Tangere Premieres at Parramatta
Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) A New Musical plays its premiere season at Parramatta Riverside Theatres from 29 March – 6 April 2019.
The musical is based on the novel by Filipino national hero Dr José P. Rizal - a Filipino nationalist during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines.
A love story set against a tragic and unforgiving political background of oppression, torture, and murder. 'The Noli' (as it is called in the Philippines) was the "first major artistic expression of Asian defiance to European colonialism".
Noli Me Tangere A New Musical tells the tale of Crisostomo Ibarra, a mixed-race man who returns home after spending several years in Europe. Upon his homecoming, Ibarra’s mind is filled with ideas about how to better the lives and futures of his people through education. He strives for societal reform but is confronted by the state of his country under the regimented and barbaric Spanish rule.
Ibarra plans to establish a new school in order to educate his people of the growing, detrimental impact of colonial influence. However, these plans are foiled upon discovery by Padre Damaso – the parish priest who refused to give Ibarra’s father, Don Rafael, a Catholic burial and is intent on Ibarra’s demise. Padre Damaso attempts all he can to excommunicate Ibarra from his community and keep him away from his true love, Maria Clara – the beautiful daughter of the wealthy Captain Tiago.
Throughout the performance Ibarra is faced with an onslaught of trials and tribulations as he strives to bring enlightenment to his people. He is faced with the ongoing and bitter internal conflict of whether he can achieve freedom for his people peacefully and release them from the shackles of colonial oppression through education or whether he must resort to violence to spur revolution.
Rizal paints a tragic picture of the long period of suffering that his beloved country endured. The story speaks volumes, not solely to Filipinos, but to all those who have experienced and endured the lasting effects of oppression.
Noli features the talents of Miguel Castro (The Filipino Tenors) who takes on the lead role of Ibarra, with Susana Downes(Theatre & Company's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and If/Then) by his side as the strong and sweet Maria Clara – Ibarra’s true love.
Susana and Miguel chat about the show.
Susana: What similarities & differences do you have with Ibarra?
Miguel: I am in stage in my life as Filipino living in the Philippines, where I have almost given up on hope regarding the state of the Philippines and the Filipinos. Just like Ibarra, I believe that its education that will waken the masses , and learn how to choose the leaders to save the Philippines from the corruptness and greed of fellow Filipino. We won against colonizing foreigners, but ended up fighting each other. But unlike Ibarra, I also believe that only a drastic change is needed to wake eliminate an almost syndicated mindset that politics in Manila is merely a business venture for oligarchs.
Susana: How has working in Australia been in comparison to the Philippines?
Miguel: I am still trying to fully understand the working conditions here as an artist. But so far I can see that artists are more secured by many conditions that does not even exist in the Philippines. And because of this , artists have rights to refuse anything that is against what they are entitled, and not entitled to. In Manila, it's like a take it or leave it thing.
Susana: We've got a real melting pot of people in this show, how is working it everyone?
Miguel: The passion to make tis project succeed is what i immediately saw, which makes me not see anything that differs from working in other places. I guess the universal unwritten rules in theater binds different races in one universal understanding. I only get to see that I am working with different people of different backgrounds during break where we do not talk as artists anymore but as friends.
Miguel: Do your parents still relate to the Noli Me Tangere? Since it was a high school curriculum subject in the Philippines?
Susana: Well, my dad's first time watching the workshop was his first time being involved in the story. My mum still remembers parts of the story, but my cousins who are still in the Philippines can still recall everything that happens!
Miguel: How will you portray Maria Clara?
Susana: How she's written! Strong, kind, passionate!
Miguel: How do you relate to the whole "filipino thing" of Noli, as a Fil-Aussie?
Susana: It's been a really great way to connect to my Filipino roots. I do lead a truly Fil-Aus lifestyle; speaking broken Tagalog at home with my mum and being immersed in the culture, but this show gives me a chance to learn more of the history of my mother's country.