How the Fish Swims in Dirty Water: <i>Antigone</i> in Indonesia

Cobina Gillitt

in Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586196
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728754 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

How the Fish Swims in Dirty Water: Antigone in Indonesia

Show Summary Details


This chapter analyses a production of Antigone staged in 1974 as a response to government censorship in Indonesia. Rendra, one of Indonesia's best-known cultural figures, was banned from the theatre for staging a play that featured a repressive dictator who prioritizes economic development above all else. At the time, open criticism of President Soeharto's ‘New Order’ government (1966–98) was ‘against the law’. Rendra's version stressed the eternal justice of natural law as opposed to the injustice of state laws implemented by transitory rulers. The Chinese martial art silat contributed movement vocabulary to the production, which caused critics to interpret it as a version of ketoprak, ‘a rural Javanese popular operetta...that uses humour to voice the problems of the common man in order to avoid political censorship’. In addition, Rendra responded to the fashion for elite Western theatre by valorizing Indonesian traditional performance.

Keywords: Antigone; Greek tragedy; Sophocles; Rendra; Indonesian theatre; silat; theatre; classics; reception; remaking

Chapter.  5561 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.