Manila ZooOrganised by: An Esplanade Co-Production
Performed by: Eisa Jocson (Philippines)
In Disney's "empire of happiness", animals are anthropomorphized and formatted with US-American values and ways of being. Lions are kings and fish, monkeys and crickets become sidekicks to humans. Filipino performers often undertake these roles as the highly favoured workforce in the Disney theme parks and shows—They are the energetic "happiness machines" who tirelessly bring these mascots to life for entertainment.
In Manila Zoo, choreographer Eisa Jocson, along with four Filipino performers and German-based musician Charlotte Simon (Les Trucs), hijacks the Disney experience by embodying the intersections and politics of humans and animals, of spectacle, labour and isolation. Rejecting established entertainment routines, they tackle the mental effects of isolation shared by man and beast, expressing a collective desire for change. In Jocson's version of the zoo, the private and public, real and virtual, happiness and horror intertwine. Humans and animals share the psychosis of isolation.
As a work that was shaped during the pandemic, Manila Zoo has taken on a heightened relevance and urgency and confronts the audience with complex issues relating to freedom of movement, exploitation and cultural identity.
Manila Zoo is a unique hybrid production featuring a live Zoom performance designed intentionally to be screened to a theatre audience attending in person. This third and final instalment of Jocson's HAPPYLAND series makes its official premiere here in Singapore's Esplanade da:ns festival. Princess, the first of the series, was presented at da:ns festival 2019.