Thanks so much
for writing. I am embarrassed for not having gotten back to you
sooner. I was waiting until I had presented your beautiful DVD
to students in my ‘Puppets, Masks and Performing Objects’
seminar, in order to get student feedback as well. This hasn’t
happened yet—for various reasons—but I will give my own initial
impressions. These are still very rough and unfocussed. I do
plan on writing on the work at greater length.
I found the
concepts of both production and DVD greatly engrossing and
fascinating. I was very appreciative of the way performance was
integrated with the story of the journey, with the bus becoming
setting, scenery, mode of transportation as well as a
temperamental character. The bus—a piece of Western-derived
technology that has been thoroughly Indonesianized—becomes the
performance vehicle by which two performance streams meet and do
NOT fuse, but happily exchange points of view. This is much like
Indonesian road traffic, we see—in which vehicles are always
narrowly averting disaster by swerving and not hitting each
Jazz, to the
average Indonesian, is unknown and when known is experienced as
a maker of (high) class. Wayang, in contrast, is known to all
but is generally considered either as low class or ‘kuno’
(overly traditional). In your work we see the staged negotiation
of these two VERY different performance fields. Sometimes the
fields overlap—through Luluk’s singing, the songs accompanying
the clowns, comic introductory dialogue by Rene in Indonesian.
Mostly integrity and independence is maintained. Moments of
great levity alternate with moments of utmost seriousness.
I found myself
absorbed by the DVD’s incidental comments and moments—the
impromptu academic seminar that emerges due to the lateness of
arrival of the bus, the problems with breakdowns, the appearance
of Luluk’s father on screen. All show the show not to be a
foreign import but engaged in the quotidian substance of
everyday Indonesian life. In sum, a fascinating portrait of
cultural work in process, a show that opens up possibilities
rather than presenting final solutions—a lakon that is being
simultaneously extemporized by a group of dalang, each in
his/her own unique performance idiom.
thanks for sharing the DVD with me: I will write more later.
Isaac Cohen, Ph.D.
Department of Theatre, Film and
University of Glasgow