Kera Sakti: A journey full of laughter

A demon tries to eat Master Genjo.
A demon tries to eat Master Genjo. Witjak Widhi Cahya/Salihara Community.

Japan’s internationally acclaimed theater company Ryuzanji Company staged Kera Sakti (The Mighty Monkey), an adaptation of Journey to the West, at Salihara Theater in Jakarta on March 11-12. The play was not just another retelling of the classic Chinese folktale, as it succeeded in combining nonlinear storytelling with video mapping technique, slapstick comedy, and Indonesian slang words.

Kera Sakti tells a story of a Buddhist monk called Master Genjo, who travels to the West to obtain sacred texts along with his three protectors: Son Goku, Cho Hakkai, and Sagojo. In the process, they are forced to overcome various challenges, including when they encounter a number of demons.

“As we planned to have a road show to several countries, we chose to play this story, which was more globally recognized, especially in Asia,” said Show Ryuzanji, producer of the play and founder of Ryuzanji Company, on March 12.

The play was able to draw laughter since the beginning, when the mighty monkey Goku knocked down a demon with his magic stick and, as a result, Hakkai and Sagojo shouted simultaneously, “Astaghfirullah!” The word means “I seek forgiveness of Allah”.

Subsequently, Master Genjo appeared from the right side of the stage, calling for help. He was only wrapped in a white cloth. Goku looked at him and asked confusedly, “Tuyul?”

According to the local myth, tuyul is a tiny bald figure believed to be controlled by dark magic and is usually ordered to steal.

“We got lots of inputs from some of our Indonesian friends. Even until Saturday noon [hours before the last show], we still tried to find suitable local jokes to be included in the show,” Ryuzanji said.

In Kera Sakti, Ryuzanji Company was able to bring an intense and neat performance to the stage. At one moment, for instance, the empty stage went dark. Then, in the blink of an eye, the lights were on again and the stage was already crowded. Video mapping technique also played a big role in making the transition between acts subtle.

Furthermore, there were lots of flashbacks to explain certain events. For example, an act when Goku accidentally hit Master Genjo with his stick was elaborated further in a flashback. It turned out that there were three invisible demons surrounding the monk, trying to eat him in order to become immortal.

Countless scenes were performed repetitively with exaggerated effects. It is no wonder that the audience kept on laughing and clapping from one act to another.

Ryuzanji Company is set to stage Kera Sakti in other parts of Indonesia as well, namely in Yogyakarta on March 16, Magelang on March 19, and Bali on March 23.

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