Although Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, many Australians have never walked the busy streets of Jakarta, or any of Indonesia’s large, bustling cities. The vast majority of Aussies who have an Indonesian stamp on their passport favour Bali beaches over crowded capitals. However, Indonesian arts collective Teater Garasi and Artistic Director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin are hoping to show Australia the beauty and power of Indonesia’s public, urban spaces with their production, The Streets.
“The streets in Indonesia are more than a path leading from one place to another. They are actually a space, that doesn’t exist just for passing vehicles and passing goods, but […] the space that exposes the stories of cultural encounters or clashes, between social classes and political classes.” said Tajudin.
In The Streets, which will have its Australian premiere at Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival, the audience will be invited to experience and explore the streets of Indonesia, interacting with and walking amongst the performers.
“In The Streets we try to reconstruct a real environment and visual images that one can see in the streets of Indonesia’s big cities […] We try to create an environment where the audience can not only see but can also experience the streets of Indonesia. At the beginning there will be no clear boundaries between the performers and the audience, because in the streets of Indonesia you can see these situations where there is no boundary between the pedestrians, the public stage, and the private stage,” he said.
The Streets has been performed and toured for over seven years now, both within Indonesia and overseas. However, Teater Garasi have continued to re-contextualise the production regularly, ensuring it stays true to Indonesia’s ever-changing urban landscape. “We try to see and put the new developments and new situations that are happening on the streets of Indonesia into the piece that we will bring to OzAsia.” he said.
Teater Garasi are well-known for their political, topical content, which is unsurprising given their origins. The collective began as a student activism group during the 1990s, when Indonesia was nearing the end of then President Suharto’s authoritarian regime.
[pull_left]Focusing on Indonesia will open the space for Indonesian artists to express our aesthetics, our concerns, our way of seeing the world[/pull_left]
“With some of my friends here I co-founded this collective in 1993, at the beginning it was not just about theatre […] it was also about student movements in Indonesia,” said Tajudin. “Indonesia, before 1998, was under a repressive regime. In the 90’s student movements everywhere in Indonesia were starting to arise. Many students in Indonesia started to go to the streets to express our political concern.”
For Tajudin, who had been interested in the arts since his teenage years, theatre was a perfect vehicle to express the group’s political concerns and to be heard. Tajudin held many roles in the group in its early years, ranging from actor to writer to director, before he turned his attention more fully to directing in what he calls “an organic evolution”.
Since its inception, Teater Garasi have become one of the pre-eminent theatre groups in Indonesia, achieving national success as well as touring internationally to destinations including Singapore, Germany, Japan, the US, and the Netherlands.
Although the group are accustomed to touring overseas, Tajudin still believes the OzAsia Festival will provide new and exciting opportunities and challenges, particularly because of this year’s focus on Indonesia.
When asked about OzAsia’s Indonesian focus, Tajudin said, “It’s a really exciting opportunity for Teater Garasi and for Indonesian performing arts.” “Focusing on Indonesia will open the space for Indonesian artists to express our aesthetics, our concerns, our way of seeing the world, and then to put it on the international stage, and then we will have this experience of having a dialogue with the international audience, the Australian audience”. Although Tajudin and Teater Garasi’s time in Australia will be brief and hectic, they see it as a step forward for their theatre company and for cross-cultural understanding between Australia and Indonesia. Plus, if you’re desperate to experience a taste of Indonesia, get a ticket to this adventurous, interactive piece of theatre – it’s much cheaper than a plane ticket.
The Streets will be performed from the 24th to the 26th of September in the Space Theatre.