Indonesian Theater Steals The Show at Asian Theater Festival

Iswadi with some Asian directors

Lampung-based Teater Satu Indonesia took over the Rock Theater stage on Aug. 31 in the village of Toga, Japan, to perform The Chairs, which was greeted with great enthusiasm by audiences at this year’s Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) Summer Season.

The Asian Theater Directors’ Festival annually invites a number of young directors from countries around Asia to present the same play. This summer, the selected directors from Taiwan, Japan, China, Korea and Indonesia were given the task of presenting The Chairs, written by Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionesco.

It was the 41st annual Asian Theater Directors’ Festival and also Indonesia’s first time participating in the festival. 

(Read also: Lampung theater troupe to represent Indonesia at SCOT Summer Season 2016)

The original play follows an elderly couple who spend time in an isolated house telling stories every night before setting up chairs for invisible guests who come to hear the man’s important messages for the world.

Using Yudiaryani’s translation of the original script, Indonesian director Iswadi Pratama decided to take a different direction with this play while still managing to capture the essence of Ionesco’s narrative. Unlike the traditional version, Iswadi divided the play into five different fragments, each of which featured two actors, apart from the ending, with one. The nine actors were Imas Sobariah, Ahmad Jusmar, Baysa Deni, Vita Oktaviana, Budi Laksana, Yeli Shinta Laras Utami, Gandi Maulana, Desi Susanti and Rarai Masae. 

Iswadi’s revival of The Chairs further explored the two characters’ memories, represented as a series of guests coming from different ages in the fragments. But the guests – depicted as a childhood friend, diva, aristocrat and ruler – are in fact a mere illusion that evokes the couples’ underlying emotions. In the end, all four pairs tragically kill each other just before the orator walks in to find their bodies lying on the floor, along with empty chairs. Read more

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