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Love Is Never Simple: Love poems to be made into musical

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, March 11, 2019  /  08:01 pm
Love Is Never Simple: Love poems to be made into musical

Talk about love: Speaking in a press conference for upcoming poetry-musical musical performance titled 'Cinta Tak Pernah Sederhana' (Love is never simple) are (from left) actors Atiqah Hasiholan, Marsha Timothy, Reza Rahadian, Chelsea Islan and Sita Nursanti, and producer Happy Salma. (Courtesy of Titimangsa Foundation/-)

Love poems by Indonesian literary legends – from W.S. Rendra to Chairil Anwar – are set to charm audiences through a musical performance titled Cinta Tak Pernah Sederhana (Love is never simple).


The performance, jointly held by the Titimangsa Foundation and publishing company Balai Pustaka, will be held in the Teater Jakarta hall at Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center in Central Jakarta for two days, on March 16-17.


Titimangsa Foundation founder Happy Salma said the show was born from a desire to bring Indonesian poetry onto the stage, in a way that was different from the usual poetry readings with which people are familiar.


“In a conversation with writer Agus Noor, I expressed the wish [for a different style]. He then developed it into this quite unexpected concept, by taking the works of 26 poets and incorporating them into a story through conversations and songs,” Happy says.


The concert’s storyline illustrates humanity’s feeling of alienation from earth and subsequent yearning for poetry. The theme is considered relevant to Indonesia’s present situation as it portrays the feeling of alienation through shifts in social values, offering poetry as the antidote.


Cinta Tak Pernah Sederhana will begin with the genesis of the universe, with words forming the world as known by humanity. The first human, the Adam-like figure, is a poet in heaven. From there, he meets his Eve, embarking on a love story where they eventually come down to earth and witness the first sunset.


On earth, the poet misses his freedom, but he still loves the woman. The story at this point incorporates a poem by WS Rendra, titled Tungku Tanpa Api (Furnace Without Fire), with the line: “You will never understand my loneliness, faced with freedom without love!”


After the woman’s passing and the poet’s eventual execution by immolation, the story takes on a line from Chairil Anwar’s poem, Aku Mau Hidup Seribu Tahun Lagi (I Want to Live for Another Thousand Years).


A number of veteran actors will be involved in the musical, including Reza Rahadian, Marsha Timothy, Chelsea Islan, Atiqah Hasiholan, Sita Nursanti, Teuku Rifnu Wikana and Butet Kartaredjasa. 


“This performance is not just special to me, but also for the actors involved. They’re not only here to act, but they are also challenged to present the poems in such a way that they flow naturally like a regular conversation. It’s something that if you’re not careful will sound like a regular poetry reading,” Happy said.


Happy praised Agus, who is the play’s director and scriptwriter, for his ability to incorporate the poems into a full-length storyline.


“Performances like this one are really rare. The script is the brainchild of our director who is knowledgeable in Indonesian poetry and literature, and he is able to develop the poems into a beautifully coherent dialogue and storyline,” she said.


Actors Wawan Sofwan and Iswadi Pratama along with poet Warih Wisatsana will serve as the play’s narrators, joined by singers Daniel Christianto, Sruti Respati, Heny Janawati and harpist Maya Hasan. 


Another collaboration comes with fashion designer Biyan, who is responsible for the cast’s costumes. The costumes themselves are cut from Baron tenun handwoven cloth designed by and named after textile designer Baron Manansang, who is a close friend of Biyan.


For state-owned publishing company Balai Pustaka, the upcoming performance is part of the company’s efforts to popularize both classical and modern Indonesian literature among the public.


The company, which has been publishing books since the Dutch colonial era, and will turn 102 this September, has published some of Indonesia’s legendary literary works, from Sitti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli to Layar Terkembang (Set Sail) by Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana.


”We’re very enthusiastic about the upcoming show. We hope the performance will make people love Indonesian literature even more,” said the company’s president director Achmad Fachrodji. (ste)

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