Since 2008, Polyglot Theatre has collaborated with Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre in developing and creating a series of projects where both companies explore the cultural influences of puppetry, installation and interactive theatre performance with children at the centre of the work.
Papermoon Puppet Theatre was founded by illustrator, writer and former theatre performer Maria Tri Sulistyani and visual artist Iwan Effendi. Based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in a country with world-renowned puppetry traditions, the young, expert artists of Papermoon are extending this form with their mixed-media productions, and creating works that imaginatively explore identity and society. Visit the Papermoon Puppet Theatre website.
The creative process
One of the huge wonders of collaborative process is authentic exchange between companies who have different approaches and forms. This is at the core of the success of the Polyglot/Papermoon relationship. When we’re together we are able to explore on many levels at once. Polyglot’s experience with children and play and the nature of interaction compliments the intricacy and emotion of the puppetry created by Papermoon. We understand each other and we deeply appreciate what each brings to the process of creation; each contributing equally to an artistic outcome through genuine exchange and attention.
The development of Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) took the creative collaboration between Polyglot and Papermoon to a new level. Puppetry, image, song and sound were used to create an exciting new interactive experience where real-life stories are reinvented with Polyglot’s signature play and imagination, along with Papermoon Puppet Theatre’s exquisite imagery.
In May 2015 we travelled with Papermoon to Lasem – a fishing village on the north coast of Java. With about 40 local children we explored boats, the sea, found local stories and met with extraordinary people who told us local history, rich and dramatic. Back in Melbourne we explored boats and journey with children from Dinjerra Primary School finding stories there; true tales told by children who have experienced danger and detention first hand.
In March 2016, the Polyglot artists travelled back to Indonesia to develop the theatrical concepts and cement the key messages of the work. Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) then entered a final stage of development at ArtPlay in Melbourne, with the Papermoon creative team travelling to Australia for a two-week residency. This included workshops with Dinjerra Primary School and the general public.
The final work pulled all aspects of these stories together; myth told to us in Lasem as a true happening, and true happenings told by children here as if they are fairy tales. Papermoon’s puppetry and Polyglot’s play worked together to make a new story with children at the centre of action and drama.
Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) premiered in 2017 at AsiaTOPA Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne. In 2018, the show toured to Jogjakarta, Indonesia, where seven free, sold out performances were presented by ARTJOG at Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja. For both Polyglot and Papermoon, bringing the completed production back to the place where it began its development in 2015 was highly meaningful and marked an important milestone in our 10 year creative relationship. In 2018 the show was also presented at Perth Festival and OzAsia Festival in Adelaide, and in early 2019 it toured to Hangzhou and Beijing in China with Art Space for Kids.
Original Creative Team
Conceived and directed by: Sue Giles, Maria Tri Sulistyani
Set and Costume Designer: Anna Tregloan
Composer & Sound Designer: Stephen O’Hara
Lighting Designer: Richard Vabre
Performers: Pambo Priyojati, Sonya Suares, Emily Tomlins
Production Managers: Rainbow Sweeny, Elise Brokensha
Stage Manager: Lyndie Li Wan Po
Animator: Wulang Sunu
Costume Maker: Amanda Carr
Set Construction: Jim Stenson, Darryl Cordell
Puppet Makers: Katrina Gaskell, Tamara Rewse
Contributing Artists: Iwan Effendi, Anton Fajri, Wulang Sunu and the Papermoon Puppet Theatre team
Contributing Children: Dinjerra Primary School, Polyglot’s Inspiring People’s Society (PIPS), the children of Lasem and Kepek in Java, Indonesia and TRY Kinder, South Yarra
Producers: Viv Rosman and Julie Wright – Polyglot Theatre
In 2018, Polyglot and Papermoon co-presented a new workshop performance at Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF). MIWF is a unique event, with a mix of literature and cultural exchange, attended by more than 20,000 people every year. Pulau Cerita (Story Islands) invited children and families to make their own tiny boats, and sail across imaginary seas to little islands where stories were told, music was played and wonderful things created. This playful performance was made in collaboration with local Deaf artists specifically for the festival.
From 2012-2014, our collaboration with Papermoon took shape through Polyglot’s Drawbridge model, which acted as a framework to foster cultural collaboration between artists from Australia and abroad, as well as the children from both communities. The title Drawbridge came from the desire to create a link by bridging the gap between two cultures. Our Drawbridge projects placed Polyglot’s child-centred process in a different culture, challenging us to prove its relevance in new contexts.
The first of our Drawbridge series in Yogyakarta began with two days of workshops where both organisations established a structure for working together; the first with a school and then with a group of experienced artists and teachers. During this first stage of workshopping, the foundations were built for communicating as well understanding how the different art forms fit together.
The next step in the creative process relied upon the local partners to find the place, situation and people where the new work could be developed. Working together in a genuine collaborative approach, this approach gave the community complete ownership over the work created.
In a week-long process, children and adults gathered at the Padepokan each day (an informal teaching and creative space) where both groups worked, played, drew, made music and puppets, and developed meaningful friendships and connections. Art is an inherent part of daily life in these communities, considered normal and essential for life.
At the conclusion of the creative process, a theatrical work emerged. The children’s drawings and play stood at the heart of the work as they remain at the centre of the creation of the story; authentic, new, funny, yet remaining true to the mythology of the region.
A final performance was presented in the village with 45 children on stage between the ages of 4 and 15, a band of 15 combining Gamalan and digital music; another 20 adults performed behind the scenes – painting the Buto boys, helping with the big puppets, leading the wild Tengu and herding roosters. An audience of 500 people from the local and neighbouring villages, Yogyakarta and as far as Jakarta celebrated a story with true child energy, the life and art of these kids. Both spectacular and contemporary looking, the final work reflected the pulse of traditional dance and authentic life.
The next stage of the collaborative process saw the key artists of Papermoon visit Melbourne for a month-long process of developing the work alongside several partnering schools to create a final participatory exhibition work presented by Fed Square across six days.
Artists on the first Drawbridge trip were: directors and designers Sue Giles and Maria Tri Sulisyani, comic book artist Mandy Ord, puppet designer and maker Octo Tri Andriatna, sound artist Marco Cher-Gibard, and community artist Ian Pidd.