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Still relevant today: W.S. Rendra’s ‘Panembahan Reso’ to take the stage in January

Muthi Achadiat Kautsar
Muthi Achadiat Kautsar

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, December 3, 2019  /  06:05 pm
Still relevant today: W.S. Rendra’s ‘Panembahan Reso’ to take the stage in January

The title role of Panembahan Reso will be played by Whani Dharmawan (right), while Sha Ine Febriyanti will play antagonist Ratu Dara. (Instagram/artpreneur/File)

Panembahan Reso, one of the most notable works of poet and playwright W.S. Rendra, is set to be staged at Ciputra Artpreneur Theater, Ciputra World 1, South Jakarta, on Jan. 25-26, 2020.

The initial plan was to stage the play on Dec. 19-20 at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), but the art center is now being renovated, forcing a reschedule and relocation.

Auri Jaya, the executive producer of Panembahan Reso, said in a press conference that rehearsals had started in May, which means the performers are ready.

“[…] Now that the performance has been rescheduled, [the actors] should be even better,” Auri said.

Panembahan Reso, which premiered in 1986, is originally a six to seven hours long, but the forthcoming play will only be three hours long.

“Although the duration is shortened from seven hours to three hours, we did not lose the essence of the play,” explained Auri, adding that the play’s consultants worked hard to find out which parts could be edited, which parts could be made concise and which parts need to be left the way they were.

Auri went on to say that Panembahan Reso was the one W.S. Rendra play that deserves to be staged now, in the era of change.

“Is this still relevant? I think it is still very relevant because this play was born from a testament, not a reportage. [It was created more from] Rendra’s testament as an artist. The play materialized when he was politically disadvantaged. Therefore, it is a character drama […], there are dialogues that may not be changed because they are not from the scenario but from the experience of the creator of Panembahan Reso,” Auri was quoted as saying, adding that Rendra once said that he was an artist, not an entertainer whose works were designed with truthfulness.

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Rendra had always wanted to write about succession, according to Ken “Ida” Zuraida, the wife of the late poet/playwright himself.

“Indonesia has a very long process of succession, but well, succession happens anytime, anywhere, at any era,” said Ida, who played in the 1986 performance of Panembahan Reso, pointing out that the archipelago was a melting pot that had become a desirable place for many, causing many conflicts of interest.

“It was juicy to talk about, [but] delicate to be written about let alone to be staged […] at that time,” recalled Ida of the performance back in the 1980s.

She also recalled that it took a long time for a permit for the performance to finally be issued. Rendra had to set up meetings with the authorities in order to obtain the permit, and when it finally came out after a four-hour-long lunch, Rendra was warned that he could be arrested if anything out of the ordinary happened.

Ten days after the permit was issued, Panembahan Reso finally debuted at Istora Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, because it was not allowed to be staged at TIM.

Once again, the play has to give up its stage at TIM.

Read also: W.S. Rendra’s monumental play 'Panembahan Reso' to be staged in December

About to be resurrected after 34 years since its premiere, the play is said to have the capability of dissecting the character and psychology of a leader who has lost all common sense and is helplessly dragged into personal illusions.

The title role of Panembahan Reso will be played by Whani Dharmawan, while Sha Ine Febriyanti will play antagonist Ratu Dara.

Ine, who was present at the press conference, said she was very proud to be part of the performance.

“[…] Ratu Dara [is] a character that’s rather difficult for me to play. She is extremely evil, and I have never played a character this absurd before. [But] for me, an actor has to experience; not to be, but to experience, just the way Rendra taught us in the book Hadir dan Mengalir [To be present and to flow],” Ine said.

Other cast members, comprising actors, dancers and musicians from Surakarta in Central Java, Yogyakarta and Jakarta, include Ucie Sucita, Sruti Respati, Ruth Marini, Maryam Supraba and Dimas Danang Suryonegoro. While this inclusivity brings diversity and positivity, Ine also sees this as a challenge.

“[…] If we see the seven-hour-long Panembahan Reso, it may be far easier for me because they [the cast and crew] have one perception: frequency. But here, when I attend the rehearsals, it is very difficult to synergize perception and frequency because we all have different backgrounds. It is, however, a pleasant challenge. This is one I have to overcome with my fellow cast members,” Ine said.

Auri Jaya (left), Sha Ine Febriyanti (center) and Ken Zuraida (right) at the press conference of Auri Jaya (left), Sha Ine Febriyanti (center) and Ken Zuraida (right) at the press conference of "Panembahan Reso" in Ciputra Artpreneur. (JP/Muthi Kautsar)

Directed by Hanindawan, the play will be performed on a stage graced with a visual arts installation and multimedia features.

Tickets are available for purchase from and GoTix, with prices starting from Rp 250,000 (US$ 17.72) for the bronze category to Rp 1.15 million for VVIP.

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