Sunday, March 25, 2012

‘Kabaret Oriental’: It’s all in the family

‘Kabaret Oriental’: It’s all in the family
Dina Indrasafitri, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 03/22/2012 10:19 AM
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Contemporary: Dancers show current lifestyles of a Chinese-Indonesian family in Kabaret Oriental “Anak Emas Juragan Batik”. JP/Wendra AjistyatamaContemporary: Dancers show current lifestyles of a Chinese-Indonesian family in Kabaret Oriental “Anak Emas Juragan Batik”. JP/Wendra AjistyatamaIt’s not easy being rich. What if your sister refuses to wear that glitzy dress you got her and you have to come up with another one? What if your face looks so tired that you need to drop by a beauty salon for a touch-up? What if your know-it-all brother wants to misuse the family company’s money and you might end up (gasp!) poor because of his antics?

Kabaret Oriental “Anak Emas Juragan Batik” [The Oriental Cabaret – The Golden Child of a Batik Master], produced by the Eksotika Karmawibhangga Indonesia (EKI) dance company, tells the story of a wealthy Chinese-Indonesian family in turmoil through dancing, singing and wit.

The story follows the children from the four wives of late Hwang Cin Hin, who are now in charge of the family batik company.

William, the oldest son from Hwang’s first wife, is in the boss’ seat, running the company with a somewhat conservative attitude. He is content with the local market and often grants budget requests from his wife, Melisa, and others in the family, by mere spoken approval, thus making the company’s book-keeping a tricky task.

Robert, who is a son from Hwang’s fourth and only living wife Lusiana, returns from studying overseas and demands that the company opens up to ideas such as tight budget control and expansion into the international market. His moves stir up controversy within the company, and ,of course,
the family.

And then there is the mysterious woman who is rumored to be getting closer and closer to Robert. Paired with the fact that Robert’s bills lately involve plenty of luxurious trips overseas, could it be that he is involved with a gold digger?

Despite the upper-class setting, the cabaret features issues that occur across classes, such as value clashes, prejudice and family ties.

In a hip, lighthearted way, it also unabashedly touches, albeit briefly, upon subjects such as homosexuality, relationships between different ethnic groups and corruption.

The dialogue, which often involves witty jokes, is carried out with various Indonesian dialects, such as Manado (from North Sulawesi) and Javanese, portraying how the Cina Peranakan (Chinese-Indonesian) culture itself is heterogeneous.

The cabaret stars noted names such as Cynthia Lamusu, Uli Herdinansyah, Sarah Sechan and Ary Kirana.

It features exquisitely designed costumes, especially the ones involving the use of batik, and vibrant, creative graphical works, multimedia and stage settings.

One of the scenes that drew big applause from the audience during Monday night’s showing at the Jakarta Art House (GKJ), saw shadow-puppet techniques combined with dancing, to tell the story of a lavish lifestyle.

Scenes performed by members of Sahita dance troupe, comprised of four women from Surakarta, Central Java, also drew applause and laughter due to their satirical lines that occasionally involve sexual humor.

“We showed the lives of Cina Peranakan because, actually, they have played a large role in developing Indonesia’s culture. We think it is about time that Indonesians admit that there are plenty of foreign elements that complete the country’s culture,” the program handed out to audience members says.

Nanang Hape, who directed the cabaret alongside Rusdy Rukmarata, says that some of the characters are based on real ones. “That [those characters] went through a little distillation because this is a show, that is true, but such characters, more or less with those characteristics, do exist,” he says.

Anak Emas Juragan Batik succeeded in providing insight of various issues in a fun, colorful way.

However, for a cabaret, it may need to be even more daring, especially in its choreography. The dances, although already dynamic, still seemed a little guarded and at times still left the stage feeling a bit empty.

Several characters in the play also left questions hanging in the air. Maureen, Robert’s younger sister, for example, is supposed to be a 17-year-old, but at times her lines sounded like they belonged to a much younger character. The character El, who is depicted as Maureen’s friend, is also still apparently in need of stronger statements to clarify her role in the story.

The cabaret, which is the 22nd production of EKI Dance Company, is set to play from March 20 to 24 at the GKJ. It is fully supported by Djarum Apresiasi Budaya foundation.

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