Cosmic spectacle and apocalyptic majesty in the land of the dead
Hades Fading ★★★★
Asia TOPA / La Mama Courthouse, until February 29
A haunting fusion of Indonesian and Western performance traditions, Hades Fading uses spellbinding visual theatre, bilingual text and gamelan music to explore contemporary themes through ancient mythology.
The piece reworks the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It begins with an evocative descent into Hades, as the audience is led into the theatre by a piper. Inside, the stage shimmers with a galactic starscape, the cosmic spectacle projected through two translucent screens.
Hades Fading at La MamaCredit:Muhammad Sa’iq
Eurydice (Heliana Sinaga) has forgotten her story. As the spirit of the doomed bride struggles to recall her origins, identity and fate, she finds herself in the library of the underworld.
Between reading contradictory reports and conducting internet searches, Eurydice gets a hazy picture of her life. But the reason for her amnesia remains mysterious, until the portentous arrival of Persephone (Rinrin Candraresmi).
The Queen of Hades has returned from the world above, where ecological catastrophe has driven humans to extinction. With no one to remember them, the spirits of Hades are fading.
Eurydice takes the chance to rewrite her story in her own voice and assumes a newfound solidity, summoning the ghost Orpheus (Wawan Sofwan) in the process. Suddenly a refreshed Hades (Godi Suwarna) invites the couple to return to life, with the usual caveat that Orpheus must not look back.
Deeply rooted in Indonesian performance styles, this spirit world lives through an air of ritual and stylised movement, through choric whisperings and ululations, and an eerie mixture of drone and chime, percussion and song.
Shadowplay has long featured in Indonesian theatre, and this 21st-century iteration – with lush projections from Deden Jalaludin Bulqini – is a triumph.
Nymphs of sea, air, forest and flower flood the stage; Persephone’s return from the sunset of human civilization attains an apocalyptic majesty; and the bilingual text, which slips easily between Indonesian and English, is supplemented by stylish surtitles that become almost a character in the performance.
A few missteps – when Orpheus breaks the fourth wall, or the text invokes particle physics – can break the enchantment, but Hades Fading is otherwise such an exquisitely crafted cross-cultural performance that even to mention them feels like nit-picking.
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