The Obsessive Twist
*The play is in Indonesian language.
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The Play, the Political Context, and the Staging
Goyang Penasaran (The Obsessive Twist) is a play about Salimah, a female dangdut* singer from a small town, who has been admired, immortalized, and shunned by men. Set in the late 1990s, at the beginning of the Islamic resurgence in Indonesia, the story revolves around Salimah and her undying love for her old time religious teacher who now condemns her, and Solihin, who would do anything to have her after she humiliates him by refusing his proposal to take her as a second wife.
Goyang Penasaran (The Obsessive Twist) is a commentary on both the euphoria and the crisis of visibility after the downfall of Suharto’s authoritarian regime. After a long suppression by the regime, celebrations of sexuality as well as various expressions of Muslim public piety are now inseparable from the democratization package. On the bleaker side, the public sphere is now crowded with some groups who, in the name of religion, conduct violence against symbols of moral decadence, from dangdut shows to LGBT conferences and festivals.
Public policies ranging from the fatwas, the shariah laws, to the controversial Pornography Law testify for the anxieties around visibility that produce the question of what is allowed to be seen and what not.“Seeing,” thus, is a central motif in the play. Goyang Penasaran (The Obsessive Twist) poses a question on the economy of seeing/being seen within the intricate relationship between the sexuality discourse, politics, religion, and violence.
Exploring the possibilities in which the spectator could critically challenge their gaze on the condemned and eroticized body of a dangdut singer, the play experiments with an old tradition in theater: the cross-dressing practice. The performance deploys four male actors to play Solihin, Haji Ahmad the religious teacher, the thugs, and Salimah herself. Stylistically, it is an homage to classic Indonesian horror films and the heyday of dangdut music from the 1970s-1980s.
*Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian popular music that combines Malay, Arabic, Indian, Western, and Latin musical elements. Throughout the history it has been associated with the underclass, commodified, and politicized. In the past decade erotic dangdut dance has been part of the debates of national morality and religion.
The Team and the History
Goyang Penasaran (The Obsessive Twist) was first written as a short story by Intan Paramaditha, published in an anthology Kumpulan Budak Setan/ The Devil Slaves Club (Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2010). She and theater director Naomi Srikandi were involved in a discussion forum on gender and sexuality in the Symposium on Performance in Indonesia (Yogyakarta 2009). The forum participants discussed how the long list of discriminations against women and LGBT groups in the public sphere reveals that sexuality is a crucial site that reflects contemporary realities in Indonesia: the tension between civil society, frictions within the ideas of nationhood, and the pervasive sense of disbelief that characterizes the relationship between the citizens and the state.
Intan and Naomi decided to respond to these issues by committing themselves in the collaborative project Goyang Penasaran (The Obsessive Twist). They adapted Intan’s short story into a play, which would then be directed by Naomi. The complete team of Goyang Penasaran (1st production) consists of Agung Kurniawan (art director), Ari Dwianto (actor), Ignatius Sugiarto (lighting and technical director), Intan Paramaditha (author of the original story, playwright), Irfanuddien Ghozali (actor), MN Qomaruddin (actor), Naomi Srikandi (playwright, director), Rifqi Mansur Maya (stage manager), Risky Summerbee (soundscape composer), Theodorus Christanto (actor, assistant director), Vidyahana Sinaga (costume and makeup artist), with production management by Ratri Kartika Sari and Teater Garasi.
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Public responses on the Yogyakarta production
“Provocative, subversive pulpy fun.” (Farah Wardani – art curator and critic)
“A must see for those who are into realism.” (Ifa Isfansyah – filmmaker)
“A combination of horror and a social commentary… Goyang Penasaran speaks at the right time – why are sex and women always to blame? The ghostly women appearing in the scenes bring sadness, anger, and mockery.” (Goenawan Mohamad – poet, playwright, essayist)