Wayang kulit, shadow puppetry from Java, unmoored from the puppet screen, unplugged from the accompanying gongs and chimes of the gamelan, without even a banana log for support. Illusions of omnipotence are shattered, the global economy in crisis, the cosmic imbalance of myth made fact. Finding himself in a Pirandellian scenario, the puppeteer turns to his old friend Semar for counsel like the knights-errant of yore.
A Dalang in Search of Wayang is a solo interactive performance which premiered at the Festival of Asian Theatre in Thessaloniki, Greece in February 2011. Inspired in equal measure by the contemporary wayang of Ki Slamet Gundono, the modern wayang tradition of Cirebon, the ‘puppet plays’ of Iranian playwright and film director Bahram Beyazai, Pirandello, Samuel Beckett and Forced Entertainment, the play casts the solo performer in the dual role of puppeteer and clown, struggling as a London-based American scholar-practitioner to achieve a Javanese wayang in the absence of the customary accoutrements of performance or Javanese audience. This is a comedy of ideas, a discourse on tradition in modernity and a stubborn enactment of time-honoured practice in a transnational context.
The production is suitable for international touring. Technical specifications are available on request. A short television feature on the show by Malaysian student Joanna Soh can be seen here.