Topeng Cirebon

Topeng Cirebon Oz Asia 2015Oz Asia Festival. Dunstan Playhouse. 26 Sep 2015

 

Masks have a profoundly significant role in the performing arts cultures of so many nations. Topeng in Indonesian means ‘mask dance’. This production makes beautifully clear a truism of this art form. The mask does not move, but it speaks. How sad Topeng Cirebon is offered for only one performance. It has so much to offer for those seeking experiences of performance, and music styles completely new to them.

 

Topeng performance comes from the coastal city of West Java, Cirebon. Two styles are performed; the spiritual Losari style and the more showy Selangit style. By alternating styles the two leading dancers of each form, Neni Losari and Inusi Kertapati, entrance the audience, drawing attention not only to the physical differences between each style overall, but also to how each mask ‘speaks’ of character, experience, status, even the circumstances the mask is relating to - be it in a directly or indirectly spiritual or ritual context.

 

Supporting the choreography are 17 brightly costumed musicians playing gamelan compositions whose performance alone is gripping. A predominantly percussion based musical style melded with wind instrumentation, the gamelan moves with remarkable ease in tempo and nuance. Sometimes working with the choreography, sometimes differentiating in beat and tempo and working against the choreography, the music heightens the performance’s depth and significance.

 

The costuming is rich and ceremonial. Each flick and turn of cloth holds significance and meaning. Each mask expresses emotions through skilful physical deployment and exacting choreography, down to the detailed movement of single fingers.

Bravo.

 

David O’Brien

 

When: 26 Sept

Where: Dunstan Playhouse

Bookings: Closed

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