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Wayang - Puppet Show

The wayang puppet show is perhaps the most famous show in Balinese theatre although the most difficult to understand. Basically an epic narrative is the key to Bali's unique world of myths, symbols an religious beliefs.

The puppet master, or "dalang", tells his story by projecting the shadows of the puppets he manipulates behind a white screen and a large lamp. He plays several characters at one, shifting from Old-Javanese to High Balinese, singing and hitting a box to mark the rhythm. A good dalang is a one-man-show, also smart, funny and melancholic. A highly skilled puppeteer controls hundreds of puppets, speaks with a different voice for each character, and controls the musicians. Plays go on for several hours.

The dalang borrows the frame of his narrative from the great epics of the Indo-Javanese tradition, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, although other stories may sometimes be used. He then creates his own episodes, usually concerning a hero quest for a magical weapon, heavenly secret or partner. The hero, accompanied by buffoons, succeeds eventually after tortuous adventures in the wilderness and flights with evil giants. The two sets of  puppets - the heroes in the right, villains on the left -symbolize the eternal struggle between good and evil.  But for the audience, the dalang's ability to spoke fun at everyone through the mouths of the buffoons is no less important than the narrative.

Performances can be seen in Banjar Buni, Kuta, every Monday and Thursday from 8:00 p.m., and at Oka Kartini, Tebesaya, Peliatan, Ubud, on Saturdays from 8:00 p.m.

 

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