Director: Kai Tai Chan
Dancers: Julie-Anne Long, Ni Nyoman Ratnadi Piniasih, I Wayan Purwanto, Kim Walker, Graeme Watson, A.A. Alit Winaya
Script development: Sinan Leong & Kai Tai Chan
One Extra Company — Carnivale
Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney, until October 27
Reviewed by Carmen Maclean
Kai Tai Chan has been in Indonesia since August working with Australian and Indonesian dancers on Dancing Demons, his last production with the Australian One Extra Company.
The Hindu epic Ramayana has been adapted to accommodate and highlight the different dance styles and experiences of both cultures. In this open-air night pageant, we have an unprecedented combination of traditional dance, music and costume with more open dancing, synthesisers and video technology.
The menacing, video-camera-swinging demon king Rawana is adorned with American Express cards and TV antennae, his dance a provocative commentary on the impact of the 20th century and Westernisation on Indonesian culture.
Princess Sinta, lured by his junk charms of jewellery, magazines and technology, is abducted to Australia, where she encounters Trijata. Cast as a free-thinking Western woman, Trijata encourages Sinta to stand up to the demon king. Meanwhile, the monkey god, key to Sinta's release, temporarily falls prey to Trijata's television set and sex drive. Eventually Sinta is reunited with Prince Rama, who behaves like a cross-cultural chauvinist pig.
At intervals the dancers step out from the story-line to give us a look in on their personal cultural exchange of the past few months. It is a gesture alluding to the performers' desire for increased cultural links and understanding between the people of Australia and Indonesia.
This spectacular performance entertains no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the Ramayana.