SINGKIL by Catherine Hernandez, directed by Nina Lee Aquino (fu-GEN/Factory). At Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). To January 28. $23-$30.50, Sunday pwyc-$20. 416-504-9971. See Continuing, page 65. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Dance helps to heal a disturbed past in Catherine Hernandez 's Singkil , an emotionally engaging piece in which the Canadian-born Mimi discovers the strength of her Filipino roots. Troubled by the death of her seemingly distanced mother, at odds with her boyfriend and her father, annoyed by a visiting friend of her mother's, Mimi discovers all manner of family secrets. Many are tied to the legend-inspired Singkil dance, in which the female performer steps through the intricate patterns made by shifting bamboo poles; the story behind the dance is that of a princess successfully negotiating an earthquake's havoc.
Knitted together by Clare Preuss 's choreography, the production has a strongly beating heart, especially in the performances of Nadine Villasin as Mimi and Karen Ancheta as her mother, Maria, who chooses to live a double life once she arrives in Canada. Rose Cortez 's visiting Norma grows from comic stereotype to three-dimensional family friend.
Not everything, though, is so rich. We're told that the prince in the Singkil story is a later add-on for theatrical purposes, and Mimi's father, Nestor, and boyfriend, Chase, though convincingly performed by Leon Aureus and David Yee , seem afterthoughts to the central story involving the women. Similarly, the relationship between Nestor and Norma isn't fleshed out.
Director Nina Lee Aquino stages the sometimes surreal, sometimes ceremonial action adeptly on Camellia Koo 's clever set of woven mats and bamboo (at one point, bamboo poles morph into elements of the CN Tower), and Romeo Candido 's sound design and Arun Srinivasan 's lighting enrich the time-shifting narrative.