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'Planet – a Lament': An ode from Garin to the environment

Josa Lukman
Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, January 8, 2020  /  04:36 pm
'Planet – a Lament': An ode from Garin to the environment

Dynamic movement: Dancers Douglas D’Krumpers (left), Pricillia EM Rumbiak (center) and Bekham Dwaa practice their number for "Planet — Sebuah Lament". (Image Dynamics/-)

Renowned film director and playwright Garin Nugroho is kicking off 2020 with a new theatrical project that blends dance and music with an environmental message.

The project, titled Planet Sebuah Lament (Planet a Lament), will grace the Taman Ismail Marzuki art complex in Jakarta on Jan. 17 and 18 for its Indonesian premiere, while on the global scale, the play will visit the Arts Centre in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 21 and 22.

Brand new play: Director and playwrights Garin Nugroho (second right) talks about his first project for 2020 titled Brand new play: Director and playwrights Garin Nugroho (second right) talks about his first project for 2020 titled "Planet — Sebuah Lament". (Image Dynamics/-)

During a recent rehearsal at the Salihara art community complex in south Jakarta, Garin said the idea for Planet was inspired by Easter celebrations in Larantuka in East Nusa Tenggara as well as in Italy, which he witnessed and heard lamentations from the participants during the processions.

“A lament is like a song of grief but also rebirth [...] In village funerals, they will grieve, but then, they will praise [the deceased] for what they had achieved in life,” he explained.

Planet – Sebuah Lament, like its name might suggest, is a multidisciplinary work portraying the story of a ruined civilization in the search of food and energy.

After a devastating tsunami, a lone man is in search of hope in the wake of destruction. In the end, a new planet is born after atonement, gained through a path seeking the balance of nature.

Though it is a message of rebirth, the environmental message is a central part of the work as Garin said that all that is left of the civilization is the lone man and an egg.

The debris left in the wake of the tsunami — in this case, materials that do not biodegrade, like plastics — become monsters that are also seeking to get the egg; it’s a metaphor for food and energy.

“These [environmental] issues will be very prominently discussed in 2020, and we will be presenting them in the form of a lament, as it is a form of prayer for disaster victims but also for a renewed hope for a sense of togetherness and positivity,” Garin said.

Planet will feature a total of five compositions sung by the 15-member Mazmur Chorale Choir from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. The compositions, Garin said, originated from various regions in eastern Indonesia and Melanesia.

“We decided on using compositions from those regions because examples of their culture influence are rarely seen or heard in the media, despite their incredible diversity in history, culture and art,” Garin said.

Most of the performers are also from eastern Indonesia and they are accompanied by those from the western and central regions, such as choreographer Otniel Tasman and dancer Rianto from Central Java.

The production process for Planet started as far back as 2014, and Garin noted that much of the creative process was spent on finding the right choir to sing the laments in a pentatonic scale.

“We went around the archipelago, from Papua to Java, to find a suitable choir. We also met a lament singer named Septi, whose skills were passed down from her elders.

“From there, picking the songs was also an extended process, as was transforming them from traditional songs to choir numbers. We also met new friends from Papuan, whom I came across after attending a dance battle in Jayapura.”

As practice continued after a short break and due to the short timeframe the performers had to prepare for their Indonesian premiere, Garin said he felt that the time gaps between his work on film and theatrical projects were enough.

“On average, each work has been thought out five years in advance; Lament was thought out seven years ago. [...] It may look like I’ve done a lot, but every project [of mine] goes through a long preparation process.”

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