Success for intercultural puppet theatre in Indonesia

January 2009 -

A giant puppet is stooped over the passers-by of the theatre. Inside a green horse and its rider walk around in the front of the stage. Suddenly the lamp is turned off. In a minimalist setting the puppeteers become one with the puppets that are tied to their bodies. The puppet show On a journey, staged in Jogjakarta in December 2008, was a collaboration between Papermoon Puppet Theatre from Indonesia, the Mexican puppeteer Carla Pedroza and Daniele Poidomani from Australia's Snuff Puppets Theatre.


Image from On a journey. Photo: Gamaliel W. Budiharga

Carla came to Indonesia to study wayang kulit (traditional shadow puppetry). She works in Mexico with a puppet company called La Cucaraca ('The Cockroach') which uses puppet to tell traditional stories. The Snuff Puppets work with large-scale puppets. Their most recent performance in Indonesia was at the Festival Kesenian Yogyakarta XIX (Yogyakarta Art Festival XIX) in June 2007.

"On a journey starts on a train which with eleven passengers inside. It's a story about the complexity of love, loss and hope", says Maria 'Ria' Tri Sulistiyani, founder of Papermoon Puppet Theatre. "It seems real, since we have taken it from the ordinary people, just like their clothes." The story is about a desperate a man who has lost his soul mate. He meets a beggar and they become friends. They are joined by a thief, a pregnant adulteress, a forgetful man and his nagging wife and a skeleton mother carrying a skeleton baby with gnashing teeth.

The collaborators, coming from different backgrounds, share a passion for puppets. "Puppets have a beautiful magic because of their limitations", says Daniele. "You might react to a person, but with puppets, you put yourself into the character. You bring the puppet into being, and the audience reacts strongly to that." On a journey drew a large audience, consisting of children and adults, who laughed and sometimes cried together.

On a journey was supported by Hivos and Hivos partner Kelola Foundation.