press enter to search

Teater Koma's modern take on an ancient epic

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, November 22, 2018  /  09:37 am
Teater Koma's modern take on an ancient epic

Batara Guru (Rangga Riantiarno) at Teater Koma's 'Mahabarata: Asmara Raja Dewa' play on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at Graha Bakti Budaya, Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Inspired by legendary Hindu epic Mahabarata, Teater Koma’s 154th production, Mahabarata: The Love Story of the King of the Gods, is currently being staged at Taman Ismail Marzuki’s Graha Bakti Budaya in Central Jakarta from Nov. 16 to 25.

The epic itself tells of the creation of the universe, exploring gods and humans and everything that comes between them.

Performed as a whimsical musical, Teater Koma’s Mahabarata play, set in ancient times, is an epic tale about wars taking place between worlds. It is a tale of civil wars that involve sibling rivalries, desires of conquest and maintaining the balance of peace between and within worlds.

The concept of duality is a major theme in the play.

The world below, called the Madyapada, presents itself as a dark world ruled by demons as the harbingers of sin. The middle world represents the mortal Earth or Marcapada, where beings such as animals and wayang reside. The heavens are called Mayapada and represent the pinnacle of spiritual achievement as the home of the gods and the angels.

However, the main story focuses on the Rajadewa or the King of God himself, Batara Guru, as he is the key to keeping the peace between the three worlds and central force in stopping any aggression from the dark world from seeping into the other worlds.

Center stage: Actors perform during Teater Koma's production of Mahabarata at Graha Bhakti Budaya in the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center, Central Jakarta. The show started on Nov. 16 and will run through Nov. 25.Center stage: Actors perform during Teater Koma's production of Mahabarata at Graha Bhakti Budaya in the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center, Central Jakarta. The show started on Nov. 16 and will run through Nov. 25. (The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

“This is an ancient play, but one that still grips; a tale about the gods as well as the creation of mankind [...] Genesis,” Teater Koma scriptwriter and director Nobertus Riantiarno said.

Nobertus added that elements of the story were derived from multiple local cultures, such as those of the Batak, the Bugis, the Toraja and the Balinese, as well as foreign cultures of Mesopotamia, Greece and Africa. These differences are reflected on stage, with the musical play’s backdrop harkening to Ancient Egypt and dresses reflecting ancient Mahabarata style.

Mahabarata the epic was thought to be written as far back as 500 BC by revered Hindu figure Vyasa and countless variations of the epic have been performed worldwide since then, including many that depicted Indonesia’s era of Hindu kingdoms.

Another prominent feature of this play is the use of visual projections and video narration, which is a step forward for the usually traditionalist Teater Koma. Indeed, scenes in the dark world, for example, are enhanced by dark and fiery visuals that are shot onto the stage, creating a captivating atmosphere.

But what makes the performance truly great, as is Teater Koma’s usual strength, are the actors themselves. The performances of seasoned Koma actors Alex Fatahillah, Sari Madjid, Idries Pulungan, Ratna Ully, Aditya Pradipta, Daisy Lantang and Dorias Prabadi, among many others, make their interpretation of Mahabarata a critical delight – they are a consistent source of praise for the 41-year-old theater company.

Your premium period will expire in 0 day(s)

close x
Subscribe to get unlimited access Get 50% off now