Wayang Orang Bharata: A Javanese Theater Surviving in Jakarta
Posted on : 13 March 2013
Categories : Culture and Heritage
I remembered, a few years ago, when visiting Solo City, I saw a wayang orang show at a local theater. Wayang orang is Javanese classical theater performance with themes taken from Mahabharata or Ramayana epics.
Seeing the locals, adults or even children, came to watch and enjoy the show till midnight was actually awesome for me. That was a place where people come to appreciate traditional cultures… their own heritage. That day, I believed that such shows—although look boring for a modern standard—will always exist in this country.
Last week, my friend, Abi, invited me to see Wayang Orang Bharata's performance. This group bases in Jakarta and performs regularly every Saturday night. Shame on me… although living in Jakarta, I never saw their performance before. I—maybe like other Jakarta-born guys—often underestimate the traditional cultural groups; some of us maybe do not know that such groups exist here. Lucky me, I grew up in a Javanese family who still keeps tradition. I know a little bit about the wayang stories, mostly from my father, and several times watch Ramayana ballet or shadow puppet shows. But still, it is my bad record for missing this Wayang Orang Bharata's performance.
So I came to the show yesterday. They performed in their newly renovated theater house. It was located in Pasar Senen District, Central Jakarta. I have to say, surprisingly, it was clean and nice. Also, I was amazed with so many people came to watch it that night. In front of the building, three-row cars were parked. And inside, seats were almost full… the VIP class, the first class, or even the balcony.
The show was started at 8.30 p.m. They performed "Bagong Kembar" (Bagong Twins) that night. All dialogues were in Javanese, but a running text was provided in Bahasa Indonesia.
I enjoyed the show. The fight scenes were cool and very entertaining. The comedy was smart; they made funny political jokes and brought several social issues. The costumes were superb, the lighting was just perfect, sound system was good, and the air conditioner worked well; I absolutely love their performance! Okay… before it's too overrated, I need to admit that it was not an international-standard opera house. But, c'mon guys, for a traditional theater show, they fulfill the Jakarta’s standard for sure.
It was unique that the show was not like a common theater show we knew. There was no strict rule. The guests could take pictures during the show. We could order foods and drinks; then the sellers would come to serve us. People laughed loudly when the actors made funny things. In the comedy scenes, some of them threw boxes of cigarettes to the stage—sometimes it was money inside—showing their tribute to the actors. I thought those were very humble and warm instead of being rude. It was like you attend an outdoor movie night. You come, eat your snack, mingle with others, and the only rule is "enjoy the show".
So, I enjoyed the night. It was a great experience to see a traditional theater group live and survive in Jakarta. A must-see performance where we will fall in love with a humble cultural show in this modern invasion era.I,once again,believed Wayang Orang Bharata as well as other traditional theater groups will always exist everywhere in this country.