Friday, May 1, 2009

Plencung Two

I attended the monthly performance at Padepokan Seni in Kasihan, Bantul on 27 April. This month it was Teater Ruang from Solo performance performing Plencung Two, the second version of an intense physical theatre work for 2 adult and 4 child actors. (The first version featured just 2 adult actors.)

The only illumination for the work was fire - first matches struck by performers and then a single lamp that illuminated parts of the actors' bodies - heads, legs, hands. There was little text - the most memorable being a monologue spoken by a child about a flood.... not of water but of technology -- playstations, cell phones, televisions etc. Actors walked around the stage mostly on their hands. It was difficult to see what body part belonged to whom, and occasionally grotesque combinations of parts were formed. This was dystopia - a world where people fragmented, technology replaced human relations, and the vision of the spectator was unable to bring clarity or wholeness. I was reminded of Bali's leyak, the witches whose bodies fragment, and basic Balinese fears (described so richly by Bateson and Mead) about the fragmentation of the self.

Before and after the performance, the company's director and some of the actors spoke in a moderated conversation. They were asked why they had such long hours of rehearsal - including rehearsals starting in the evening and going on to the morning. The director answered that it was out of imposed boredom (kejenuhan) that ideas originate. He admitted there was some truth to the accusation that he is anti-humanist (anti manusiawi). The adult actress in the production spent so much time rehearsing on her hands that she cried and begged for time off - which he offered (for 2 days). However, he asked, what is more anti-humanist - the slumped postures of a person at a playstation or riding a motorcycle, or the intense physicality he requires of his actors?

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