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Shadow puppets in Ubud

Since we began planning our trip (which seems such a long time ago now) I was keen to see a shadow puppet show. As well as being genuinely intrigued by this form of art & culture I think this was partly prompted and sustained by the image on the front of one of our guide books that was our solid companion for many months.


Now somehow despite travelling in SE Asia for 6 months we had managed to miss every shadow puppet show along the way! I remember being a bit over dramatic and saying to Dan "it was the ONE thing I wanted to do and I ve missed it!" Obviously there were more reasons for our trip than seeing a puppet show but sometimes you lose perspective...maybe due to the heat!

So you can imagine how excited I got when I saw a shadow puppet show advertised in Ubud! We weren't going to miss it this time!

A balinese shadow puppet show is also known as Wayangand this one was being held at Oka Kartini just down the road from the yoga studio and we were able to stroll there after our evening Yin class in time for the performance to begin. We got our ticket outside, I think it was around 70,000 rp which is just under a fiver, and were each given a sheet of paper with the story of that nights show.


A boy in traditional dress led us to a room around the back where we joined about 9 other tourists sitting on plastic chairs staring as if hypnotised at a flame flickering behind a rice paper screen and waited for the magic to begin.


We seemed to stay like this for ages, just watching the flame and waiting and finally the music started and the lights went down. We eagerly stared at the screen and nothing happened. The band, puppet master and his assistants were sitting behind the screen playing the music and still setting up all their equipment and we were a bit bemused why this had not been done earlier when they had been sitting around chatting. Now the music was not exactly relaxing and although it was good to hear the traditional instruments when combined with the flickering light got a bit much.

Eventually a man came to the front to introduced the show and the characters so we would recognise them, but as the music played on with clanging cymbals and drums think I missed some of the key descriptions but it was great to finally see the shadow puppets.


The intricacy of the designs is incredible and they must take a lot of time, patience and concentration to make. Not only do the limbs move on some but also the mouths when they were talking. There is just one main puppet master, known as dalang who performs the show, orchestrating the puppets as well as doing the voices, which is quite impressive when you think sometimes there are several characters on the screen. He is normally a well respected person in the community considered an educator of others by sharing the stories and culture through shadow puppets.


Now despite the introduction of the characters and having read our story sheet we were lost within minutes of the show beginning as it was performed in Balinese but it was still interesting to watch and every now and then when the comedic characters came on they chucked in some mocking English of interactions with tourists "do you need transport?" which got a few laughs from the 'crowd'.

Now we do have some videos to add but the Internet is so slow where we are that we can't upload them, must remember to update this entry when we have better connection!

It wasn't long though before the already restless audience started to lose interest and gradually half walked out! Now I think this was really rude and even though I found parts of the performance a bit hard to sit through as I had no idea what was going on and it went a bit crazy, I still had to stay
Out of respect for the performers. There were so few of us to start with would have been awful for them to finish to just one persons applause!

Not sure I would go and see another one though!


Posted by doyledan 22:19 Archived in Indonesia

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