Presented by Papermoon Puppet Theatre (Jakarta)
Reviewed 26 September 2015
Founded in 2006 by Maria Tri Sulistyani and Iwan Effendi, Papermoon has built a solid reputation as a world-class puppet company. Working in various genres, they chose the Japanese bunraku and kuruma ningyo puppets, for the play they have brought to OzAsia: Mwathirika.
This choice was quite deliberate. Sulistyani explains that “there is an intimate feeling when playing with these puppets, [and this is] what we need to tell intimate and personal stories.”
Although, on one level, a political piece, Mwathirika, is much more a personal tale. Set in 1965, when Sukarno’s death squads were gutting villages, it tells the story of four-year-old Tupu, a happy, village child, and his brother, Moyo. Through the eyes of little Tupu, we see the village torn apart by the squads, and Tupu eventually left to fend on his own. This story was built around the real stories of people known to the company. The, mostly, straight narrative is interspersed with some video and other imagistic theatre forms, and the tragedy is lightened with delicate humour through the antics of the children. But when little Tupu cried (and the puppet really does cry), many of us in the audience joined in.
The standard of puppetry is extraordinary. The energy and artistic integrity of this company shines through in every scene. This is a magnificent piece of theatre, painting a portrait of the political in the everyday.
We were truly blessed in Adelaide to see this company. Let’s hope they come back soon.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Mwathirika played September 25 and 26th in the Rehearsal Room of Adelaide Festival Centre.