Cleaners: Art against Oppression



FROM the arid scrubs stroking the surface of the dusty floor, a strident sound shrouds the quarters of Ms. Dimaguiba’s classroom. Heightened by the boisterous conversation of the cleaners, the room transforms into an arena of juvenile arguments and mischievous plays. However, the blaring echoes are suddenly muted when the cadavers are exposed from the classroom’s cupboard.

Written and directed by Jhudiel Clare Sosa, Cleaners is a play about a group of students and their regular cleaning sessions that turn into a plan on how to eliminate the biggest dirt in their classroom: the corpses of their classmates. After discussing possible methods to effectively solve the problem, Irish and her friends decide that they must address the root of the bloodshed by killing the perpetrator herself, Ms. Dimaguiba.

Prompted by a typical classroom set-up, viewers may initially feel neutral toward the play, but one must not be deceived by its exterior display, for it hides layers of surprises and thought-provoking scenes.

Due to a verbose dialogue in its first few scenes and excessive focus on trivial aspects of the classroom, the play starts out in a slowly and an uneventfully. However, when the actors start to throw heavy lines depicting slices of reality and begin presenting the conflict of the story, the play soon unravels its wonders and impressive components, such as when Kim reflects on her future, and when Jackie avoids gossip on her alleged affair with her own father.

Intensified by the entrance of Lewis and his elegant yet hilarious line delivery, the audience began to show enthusiasm toward the play. The character of Irish is also noticeable for her display of authentic emotions through entertaining actions and line delivery. Irish and Lewis stand out from the play by matching each other’s good acting performances and effortless humor.

Having an immutable setting is a blessing in disguise; it makes the plot execution uncomplicated and easy to comprehend. Also, it did not stop the play from unleashing its exceptional subplot. This is evident when the play successfully integrated the supernatural with realism by animating the carcasses and giving them a voice to add fright to the drama.

As the corpses reveal themselves from the vessel of the unknown, they also signal the major transition of the play from the youthful exchange of ideas to the revelation of a heinous anecdote behind their lifeless bodies. Despite the disclosure of the crime, the characters—regardless of their naivety—establish a placid attitude on how to handle the situation. It was a successful implementation of dramatic irony into the story, inciting curiosity and questions in the audience’s minds. This technique is enhanced when the play progresses in the scene where the characters start to orchestrate a strategy on how to dispose of Ms. Dimaguiba.

When the corpses started to move and delivered their dialogue, the execution of lighting and sound effects enhanced the mood and set a mood suitable for the act.

Despite being clouded by heavy dialogues and overused jest in its latter part, Cleaners allows the audience to breathe by inserting humor and wordplay in between serious sequences, permitting the viewers to digest scenes coherently.

The play also creatively used a literary device called Deus ex machina in order to signal that the conflict was finally resolved. This is evident in the scene where, instead of considering Ms. Dimaguiba’s dead body, Irish picked up the lost scrub with joy.
From the various forms of symbolism and literary devices used in the play, it generally intends to expose the hidden cruelties and abominations happening in society today. Ultimately, it urges its viewers to clean, purge, and eradicate the oppressive apparatuses that continuously defect the morals of the people. However, Cleaners gives the freedom of interpretation to its audience, allowing a diverse and rich culture of discourse to flourish. F

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