Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kresna Denawa at Cambridge University

On 23 October, I gave a a 2 hour 45 minute rendition of Kresna Denawa, a traditional lakon (play episode) with the Cambridge Gamelan and a few guest artists from London's Southbank Gamelan Players at Cambridge University's West Road Concert Hall. Hannah, my daughter, made a cameo, performing a little wayang kancil number (Kancil dan Buaya) that she had learned in Yogyakarta earlier in the year, using puppets made by Ledjar Subroto. The performance was part of Cambridge University's Festival of Ideas, and I performed at the invitation of the gamelan's director, Rob Campion.

I used a basically Solo style for the show, including sulukan, sabetan, and Solo's punakawan (Semar, Gareng, Petruk, Bagong) although the version of the lakon I used is from the Gegesik dalang Bahani (the Solo version is known as Bedahipun Dwarawati, or The Conquest of Dwarawati), and my voices, narrations, patterns of dialogue, tanceban etc remain at the core gaya Gegesik. My interpretation of Narayana, in particular, was done in emulation of the late Basari.

The performance was well attended, and while I chose an intentionally 'light' lakon (with an emphasis on battle scenes, rather than philosophical content; a small number of characters; simple story structure), a couple who had seen me perform in the past said it was far better than past shows - and that they loved the battle scenes in particular.

My drum player John Pawson was unfortunately mugged 6 days before the show, suffering a serious head injury, resulting in Simon Steptoe coming as a last minute substitute. I did not get a chance to run the full lakon with him, and this meant we experienced some problems in communication.

But I was happy overall with the performance, and look forward to getting another opportunity to perform the lakon with the SBGP in Manchester next month. And I was happy to receive a bottle of wine at the show's end!

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