By Evan Darwin Winet
Drawing examples from as early as a 1619 construction of Hamlet and as contemporary as 2007 performances through Indonesia’s most renowned presidential impersonator, this publication considers how theatre capabilities as a uniquely potent medium for representing the contradictions of Indonesian id within the city colonial/postcolonial metropole.
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Additional info for Indonesian Postcolonial Theatre: Spectral Genealogies and Absent Faces (Studies in International Performance)
Bujangga and his kyai advisers openly acknowledge throughout the play that effective anti-colonial resistance is rooted in mystical piety. As the last in a series of advising ascetics, Sabaineratju, tells Bujangga, ‘Faith in God will be your weapon’ (Bodden, 2009: 20). When Bujangga worries that he stands no chance against the superior technological knowledge of his foes, he is advised that he will wield a superior spiritual knowledge. Even Rawana acknowledges upon his own defeat that ‘this is the will of almighty God’ (30).
A neoclassical proscenium theatre, erected in Batavia’s Weltewreden district in 1821 for a Dutch amateur theatrical society with a Latin motto, also served as an exclusive venue for European performing arts. During the same period, many regional native theatrical genres passed into new patronage structures that valued conservatism over dynamism. Thus, as in many other colonized societies, a stark distinction between European and Native increasingly slipped into a distinction between modernity and tradition.
The themes of Hamlet – burdens of inheritance, duty to kin and nation, search for identity in a time ‘out of joint’ – could all have taken local resonance within the specific context of a (trans)national fortress awaiting conquest. Perhaps the players saw their own castle as the embattled Elsinore, or more charitably considered the over-reaching Wijayakrama, whose treachery to his relative and liege (as that of Claudius to the elder Hamlet) had brought his small state to ruin. However the topicality of the play may have been parsed, this foreign play fitted the moment: a castle caught in a tide of war, spurred on by ghosts and racked by doubt; a fortified metonymy of a distant fatherland christened, like the Netherlands itself, while still under existential threat.
Indonesian Postcolonial Theatre: Spectral Genealogies and Absent Faces (Studies in International Performance) by Evan Darwin Winet