It was like herding cats . . .

Well, it’s been a long time since I last posted which is mainly due to several degree assignments which took a lot of time, my school job and life in general. I have to admit that my assignments have been really challenging of late and have pushed me to the limit of my writing and intellectual abilities. School-wise, all teachers have had to stay at school for an extra hour, three times a week, for the last couple of months to help students prepare for the secondary school drama production of Rama and Shinta.

Rama, played by Nabil and Shinta, played by Divya

Rama, played by Nabil and Shinta, played by Divya

Rama and Shinta has its roots in Hindu culture but has been adopted and adapted by a range of Asian countries. In Indonesia, traditional puppet shows often depict the story; I saw a performance of it a couple of years ago in fact. Our  version was far shorter than the original and a musical to boot! The entire secondary school was forced asked to participate and since January they have been practising the various dance routines three or four times a week. This they did without any enthusiasm whatsoever and some days it was like herding cats. On performance night it all came together, once they had costumes and make-up on, and some of them looked like they were actually enjoying themselves, though being teenagers would never admit it!

Here is the story in a nutshell. Prince Rama is a great warrior, married to beautiful Shinta. When he is due to take over the throne, his wicked stepmother tricks his father into sending him away to a forest to meditate, along with Shinta and his brother  Laksmana. While they journey through the forest, the evil demon king Rahwana sees Shinta and hatches a plan to kidnap her and make her his wife.

Rahwana's demon followers

Rahwana and his demon followers

First he sends some demons dressed as golden deer who dance for the travellers. Shinta is delighted with them and begs Rama to catch one for her. He agrees and goes into the forest after instructing his brother to protect her. Rahwana then enacts the second part of his plan. He imitates Rama’s voice and calls for help. On hearing her husband shouting, Shinta insists that Laksmana goes to help him. He agrees but before he leaves he draws an enchanted circle around her to protect her. Rahwana finally sends an old starving man to Shinta, who immediately leaves the circle to help him. Rahwana seizes her and takes her to his palace.

Rahwana seizes Shinta

Rahwana seizes Shinta

When Rama returns to the forest after realising he has been tricked by the deer, Shinta is gone. He frantically searches for her but to no avail. Finally he calls on Hanoman, the White Monkey King, for help. He agrees to assist Rama and heads off to Rahwana’s palace. After a showdown between Rahwana’s demons and Hanuman’s monkey soldiers, Hanoman is victorious but when he returns to the forest he pretends that he lost the battle and failed to save Shinta; Rama is distraught.

Hanoman played by Moe

Hanoman played by Moe

Hanoman explains that he has brought some beautiful women to cheer him up but Rama is very angry and ignores them while they dance; all he can think of is Shinta. Eventually Hanoman reveals that Shinta is in fact one of the women and the couple are reunited. Later Rama tells Shinta that he doesn’t believe she is telling the truth about Rahwana and challenges her to her walk over hot coals to prove her purity. If she burns then she is guilty. Of course she doesn’t and Rama begs for forgiveness. The play ends with the couple reaffirming their love; the moral of the story being that good will always triumph over evil!

Shinta walking the coals with the fire dance

Shinta walking the coals with the fire dance

Me and Ian dressed up for our 5 minute slot!

Me and Ian dressed up for our 5 minute slot!

As for me, well I had a 5 minute slot with a colleague in order to give a brief synopsis to the audience. We were asked to dress up in Balinese costumes with traditional make up, which I wasn’t keen on initially, but it turned out okay. What do you think?

Unfortunately the costumier had never met me and turned up with an outfit more for a teenage girl than a slightly overweight bulé with actual breasts! Somewhat embarrassingly they had to sew two tops together to get it around me and then safety pinned it down the side! Not a great look plus my students soon realised that I had a gekko tattoo on my shoulder and insisted on seeing it! The make-up was plastered on (took me 10 minutes to get it all off) and a lot of my students commented in shocked voices, ‘Ms Sally, wow you look pretty’ which I decided to take as a compliment instead of being offended by the veiled insult underneath! When I looked in the mirror all I could see were wrinkles etched into sharp relief by massive amounts of powder but my eyes  looked good and I’ve tried to copy the technique since then.

The performance went very well and there was a great turn-out from parents and friends. All in all, after weeks of practising the students did a great job. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

The finnale

The finale

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Categories: Just Plain Blog

4 replies

  1. I think this must have been an excellent experience! The costumes are just lovely and I love your headdress! Or is it a crown? Whatever it is it is beautiful. 🙂

  2. A brilliant story and experience. You certainly are getting a lot out of your stay over there. I am sort of jealous (in a good way). I’d love to be part of something so special. Do tell when you find out the trick of the lovely make-up! Once again, thank you for sharing. 🙂

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