A harrowing puppetry show looks unflinchingly at a bloody period in Indonesia’s history
This article is from 2015.
There aren’t many Fringe shows that deal with mass, state-supported killings and a bloody coup d’état through the medium of puppetry. But there’s no denying the ambition of Papermoon Puppet Theatre from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in looking unflinchingly at a horrific time in their country’s recent history – the rise to power of Suharto in 1965, and subsequent slaughter of millions throughout the country.
Papermoon take these immense events down to the personal, however, focusing on two village families, at first shown in idyllic, playful bliss before the arrival of sinister masked figures and subsequent disappearances.
It’s powerful stuff that leaves a hollow sense of outrage by the show’s bleak conclusion, but it’s also conveyed in disappointingly broad brush strokes, with unutterable happiness sliding inexorably into abject horror. The show’s background political context could also do with spelling out a little more clearly to the uninitiated.
The puppetry itself is strong, subtle and extremely effective – as might be expected from artists whose country has such a strong puppetry tradition – and characterisation is finely etched, but the pace is on the ponderous side, with lengthy gaps between scenes. It’s an admirable project to deal with such an emotive subject, but the show itself could do with some tightening up.
C, 0845 260 1234, until 31 Aug, 10.10pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£5.50–£9.50).