Fri, 03 Mar 2000

Actors Unlimited draws Bandung crowds with Fo's 'Anarchist'

By Wawan S. Husin

BANDUNG (JP): On Feb. 24 and Feb. 25, Actors Unlimited of Bandung staged Dario Fo's 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist at CCF Bandung.

The two-day performance played to full houses despite the rainy evenings and other performances, such as those by the National Young Musicians in Taman Budaya Bandung on the same nights.

The play -- produced by Fo in l970 -- begins with Inspector Bertozzo (Fathul A. Husein) accusing a man of impersonating others. The man is accused of impersonating a judge, a rabbi, a clergyman and a professor, and Bertozzo questions this wrongdoer.

The man also is accused of being involved in the bombing of a number of places. Betozzo fails to corner the suspect, who is then summarily kicked out of the inspector's office. Bertozzo then leaves his office and the man -- called a lunatic by the authorities -- sneaks in and makes off with a pile of files concerning "the death of the anarchist".

According to the files, this anarchist committed suicide while he was on trial for some crime or another. Which brings the breathless audience to the second act, which begins in the office of the head Inspector (Muhammad Sunjaya). Another inspector (Asep Supriatna) is talking with a guest, who introduces himself as a judge who wishes to investigate the death of the anarchist.

The judge asks this inspector and the head Inspector -- who entered the office at some point -- about the details of the trial. The inspectors reveal the anarchist did not in fact commit suicide, but he accidentally fell out the fourth-floor window of the police headquarters. The anarchist died an accidental death, he did not commit suicide as stated in the official police report.

At the peak of this suspense, a reporter (Sari Asih) fortuitously arrives at the scene seeking to interview the police. The inspectors ask the judge to pretend to be a police captain and handle the interview. He does so and almost succeeds in cheating the reporter out of the story, when Bertozzo dramatically appears and unmasks the captain/judge as the lunatic. In the end, the police conspiracy is revealed and everything comes gushing out.

This two-and-half-hour performance by Actors Unlimited Bandung (AUB) was quite a success. Two day of packed houses -- and even more people turned away at the door -- could be a sign that AUB is just what the theatergoers of Bandung were waiting for. The performance was the fifth production staged by the company, following ART, La Boheme, Faust and Lalayang Salaka Domas.

In The Anarchist, Yayat Hendayana plays the lunatic who impersonates everyone, and can be said to be the star of the show, a remarkable feat after his almost 20-year absence from the stage. Yayat -- a veteran actor and stage man for Studiklub Teater Bandung (STB) -- put on a masterly display of acting, especially on opening night.

His spontaneous acting, mimicking, posturing and gesturing were all dedicated to the stage. His full capacity of virtuosity was on display, a sign of an experienced actor. He easily was able to manipulate his body and "speak" through his actions.

If he had a weakness, it was his voice. For those familiar with his acting from the 1960s and 1970s, it is apparent his absence from the stage has reduced his strength.

Although we realize we cannot cheat age, Yayat is still a star, appearing in almost every scene in the play as different characters. (The characters played by Fo in its original Italian production).

Fathul A. Husein and Muhammad Sunjaya also were joys to watch in the play. Fathul, an alumni of STSI Bandung (Institute of Music and Performing Arts) has been involved in a number of major productions in the city, as has Yoyon Sunjaya, a colleague of Yayat and Suyatna Anirun from STB.

Credit also goes to Sari Asih, despite the fact she only appeared for the last 25 minutes of the play. Her presence helped the play rise to its peak denouement, and it is clear that she has a bright future ahead of her on the country's stages.

The play was enlivened by musicians from SPDC and GSSTF Unpad, and the stage setting by Diyanto. Diyanto and his crew gave the actors space by employing a simple stage design. Diyanto and Udin Ganda also are veterans of stage productions.

All in all The Anarchist, whose producer Sonny "Joglo Bandung" Soeng surely was pleased by the performances, can be seen as an important production in once again making Bandung the center of theatrical life in Indonesia.

Behind the scene

Actors Unlimited is a group of actors concerned with the principles of the stage and with gradually improving the management of the performing arts.

The company was founded in Bandung on Aug. 28, 1999. The name was inspired by the group of jazzer vocalists in the U.S., The Singers Unlimited. Their goal is to annihilate the limits of geography, state, culture, religion, ideology and political borders through art.

The group has positive and advantageous relationships with those who can create a synergy toward creative collaboration based on respect and dignity. Actors Unlimited focuses on production, education and publication.

The director of the company is Mohammad Sunjaya and the secretary is Fathul A. Husein.