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Review: UNDER THE VOLCANO is a Poetic Testament to the Human Spirit

Review: UNDER THE VOLCANO is a Poetic Testament to the Human Spirit

The performance is an adaptation of a 1883 poem.

Eight years after its debut in the 2014 Theater Olympics, the theatrical show UNDER THE VOLCANO will have its Jakarta run on Saturday, August 27. The production will run twice, starting at 16.00 and 20.00, at the Ciputra Artpreneur Theater.

As a country located on the Ring of Fire, Indonesia boasts more than 70 active volcanoes. UNDER THE VOLCANO seeks to present a story familiar to many Indonesians, past and current: the ever-present benefits and dangers of living near a volcano.

The show is based on the 1883 poem by Muhammad Saleh, "Syair Lampung Karam". The man taking on the task of adapting the 139 year old poem into a stage show is director Yusril Katil, working with a cast consisting of Komunitas Seni Hitam Putih and Jajang C. Noer. The music is composed by Elizar Koto, with Rhoda Grauer serving as the dramaturg.

Review: UNDER THE VOLCANO is a Poetic Testament to the Human Spirit

As the show starts, the curtain parts to reveal a big monitor spanning nearly the whole length of the stage. This monitor serves as the backdrop to the show, sometimes displaying different visualizations, while other times simply glowing with the appropriate color for the mood.

The first scene depicts a day in the life of a bustling village by an unspecified volcano. The performance integrates "tari piring" (plate dance), a traditional West Sumatran dance in which the dancer holds a plate on each of their hands. Likewise, the orchestra consists of traditional instruments that play the accompanying ethnic music.

Soon, the idyllic scene is thrown into disarray by an earthquake. The ensuing chaos was portrayed effectively by the actors' movements, the clanging of the plates, the raucous music, and the visualization on the monitor.

Review: UNDER THE VOLCANO is a Poetic Testament to the Human Spirit

As the shaking grows and lava starts to flow, the audience witnesses very imaginative uses of the wooden ladders. These ladders become platforms for the actors, used both physically and metaphorically. They are climbed on, balanced on, or put together to form a shelter, or a cage.

This creative use of props, paired with the intense choreographed movements and defiant words of declaration (in a local dialect, with subtitles available in English and Bahasa Indonesia), portrayed the violent reality of destruction and despair brought by volcanic eruptions.

Review: UNDER THE VOLCANO is a Poetic Testament to the Human Spirit

UNDER THE VOLCANO serves first and foremost as a reminder of the awe-inspiring power and majesty of the volcanoes. But it's also a testament of the indomitable human spirit of the Indonesian people. There have been many catastrophic events brought by these lithic giants, and there will be more to come, but just as our ancestors did, we too shall prevail if we help each other as a community.

As one of the survivors shouted as he perched himself on a ladder up high: "There is no choice. Life must go on. The sun will rise again."



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From This Author - Rakaputra Paputungan

Rakaputra Paputungan is a Jakarta-based musical theatre aficionado who seeks to spread the love of the art form in Indonesia. Often volunteering for musical or theatrical productions, he's alwa... (read more about this author)


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