Laugh and Live Through “Mati Berdiri” Pantomime Theater on Helateater Salihara 2017
“Laugh before it’s prohibited”, the term made famous by comedy group Warkop DKI seem to be very relevant during New Order Regime in Indonesia. The spirit to make people laugh through art also inspired a pantomime theater collective which was established by late artists Sena A. Utoyo and Didi Petet in 1987. Since then the group called Sena Didi Mime have performed on many stages in Indonesia or abroad and brought laughter upon those who watched their shows. During Sailhara Theaterfest 2017 series titled Helateater Salihara, the group had a chance to show their latest creation called “Mati Berdiri”. Never been shown in any other stages before, Salihara becomes the premiere of their latest original piece. It was directed by Yayu W. Unru and starring an all-male cast performers. We had the chance to see the grand rehearsal of “Mati Berdiri” which lasted for 15 minutes and during the short time, it brought a lasting impression on us.
The show started with a man singing a traditional Minang folklore on the audience bench, then the attention shifted towards the stage. There was a customized platform made of wood on stage and there was a huge cushion ball on it. Out of all sudden, the ball came to life and showed a man carrying the ball as his belly. It mimicked a woman being pregnant and giving birth to seven children in total. The men as the babies crawled out under the huge belly and they explored a baby’s movement through their bodies. Afterwards, the show went to explore human’s modern life and also did not forget to insert the current social and political situation through the pantomime. It also put a sarcasm towards our society who always want a uniformed or homogeneous community, while in fact we were born different. Since it’s a mime show, there is no dialogue involved between the casts. But the absence of words spoke louder represented by facial expressions, gestures, and comical antics. The audience were free to interpret the meaning of the mime and the director himself said that people should not think too deep about the meaning behing their show.
On a Q&A session held after the rehearsal, Yayu told stories about the creation of the show saying that since it was the first time for the players to perform at Salihara, they became very nervous and stiff. In a relaxed mood, Yayu said that their current goal is to make people laugh, because laughter becomes rare since the era of digital came. He wanted the audience to feel the sensation of laughter without understanding the context of their activities. We’re driven towards a stress free mode while watching the show. He went on to compare the style of the pantomime during the New Order regime and now. During the old times, almost all political situations could be turned into a joke and people would laugh it off since it was just an entertainment. They got away easily from the strict oppression since they served the intended sarcasm as a comedy purpose. In the era of democracy, those things that used to be so funny are not so laughable anymore. The director had to find a new way to be funny without hurting people who are easily offended these days. He cited religion as the only matter that should not be brought into their mime show. Yayu said that it was a sensitive topic that is likely to be the reason of confrontation.
“Mati Berdiri” happens when our brains are overdose with too much information. Without having the right sense of direction, the individuals become very labile and uncertain. They are not dead, but not alive as well. The show taught us that it’s better to die while standing and have a little rest before continuing our life with a firm grasp of who we are and what we want in life. But first, laugh!
Writer: Indra J.W. and Novita Widia