Knowing little about Rizal before the play, NICOLE DOUGHTY left the theatre with a new-found appreciation for the suffering endured by Filipinos during Spanish colonial rule.

Armando Reyes’ Sydney play ‘Her Son, Jose Rizal’ was an emotion-packed 90 minutes, unfolding the events surrounding the eponymous hero’s childhood, early student years, and decision to allow himself to be exiled to Dapitan and ultimately become a martyr of the Philippine Revolution.

Knowing little about Rizal before I went into the Tom Mann Theatre, I emerged with an appreciation for the suffering undergone by citizens of the Philippines during Spanish colonial rule, and a determination to buy a copy of ‘Noli Me Tangere’: that is how captivating and clear the narrative was.

Even allowing for this limited knowledge, and without a copy of the program, the delivery of the dialogue by all the cast members always ensured that the most uninformed, as well as the most knowledgeable viewers, knew exactly what was taking place. The two young actresses who played the roles of child and older Soledad are to be commended for their performances; most of the tears and the laughter that occurred amongst the audience were during their scenes.

L-R: RJ Rosales, Sally Anolin-Clark (Dona Teodora), Isajane Noble (Soledad)

L-R: RJ Rosales, Sally Anolin-Clark (Dona Teodora), Isajane Noble (Soledad)

L-R: RJ Rosales, Sally Anolin-Clark (Dona Teodora), Isajane Noble (Soledad)


This same praise must also extend to the actress playing Dona Teodora (Sally Anolin-Clark), whose motherly pride and anguish at her son’s achievements were palpable every time she set foot on stage – the standout performance of the Sunday matinee session.

Michelle Baltazar has described RJ Rosales as a heartthrob, and that he is, playing the defiant young Rizal with great energy. However, I was slightly confused by the final scene, which seemed to depart from the ‘historical tragedy’ tone set by the rest of the play in an almost Australian Idol-esque pop performance by Rosales. The fact that I didn’t understand the lyrics of the significance of the song may have contributed to that, but it still felt slightly out of place, and seemed to merely be an opportunity to capitalise off Rosales’ pop star power.

This section, as well as the cheesiness of the backing music, detracted from the overall tone and quality of the play, with its beautifully detailed costumes and the obvious care that has gone into other aspects of the performance. Though it is too late now to see the play in Sydney, I have heard that it will be touring Australia, and it is vital viewing for Filipino Australians, whether they are familiar with Philippine history or not.

4.5 / 5 stars

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