Sandaime Richard Interviews #4: Jajang C. Noer, Indonesian actress & film producer

Ng Yi-Sheng

September 7, 2016

Here's the last of the Sandaime Richard actors I interviewed (opening night is tomorrow!!): famed Indonesian stage and film doyenne Jajang C. Noer! Originally hailing from Padang, she comes from a more contemporary theatre background, having been a key artistic partner with her late husband, the poet/playwright/director Arfin C. Noer, founder of Teater Kecil (the small theatre). 

That's her rehearsal costume in the photo, not what she always wears. But she's definitely a queen!

NYS: When did you begin acting?

Jajang: I started on stage in 1972 when I was 20 years old in Teater Kecil.

NYS: And that was where where you met your husband?

Jajang: Obviously! His basics are the traditional theatre of Cirebon, but he said his teacher is Ionesco, so you can imagine what kind contemproary theatre you’re talking about. Not exactly absurd, but absurd. So that’s the two styles that I’m used to.

NYS: What’s the most difficult thing about acting in Sandaime Richard?

Jajang: To remember the Japanese cues and the dialogues because I have to respond when they are talking about things, and also the cues when they come in.  Because sometimes the pronunciation is different from the book. They don’t pronounce the “u” or the “o”…

Everybody is using their own language. Kadek is using his own Balinese, but I don’t understand him! The only person I can understand is Janice [Koh]. So remember that; that it is the most difficult thing. Because this is the first time I’ve done a show that is not in Bahasa Indonesia.

NYS: Really? Haven’t you ever had to perform in Javanese or other Indonesian languages?

Jajang: Yes and no. In films sometimes they put me in some kampung and I have to have that dialect, or some words of that dialect, and truly the intonation or that dialect of that province. Most of my films are like that. I can tell you about 12 provinces that I’ve played, and I have to tell you how the sing-song goes!

NYS: Have you performed in Singapore before?

Jajang: Yes, with Teater Kecil! It was called The Bottomless Well. That as in the Singapore Arts Festival in 1987. It was still held at the World Trade Centre.

NYS: Was it well received?

Jajang: I think well received. What I remember of it was we were not supposed to smoke there, and I was still smoking then. And so we would open this big window and smoke through the window.

But all of a sudden, during the dress rehearsals one of the props guys had to light incense for a scene. And the alarm went off, and firemen came to the 23rd floor. And of course they were angry! 23 floors, can you imagine?  And so the next day they put off the alarm, from 6:30 till we finish. It was so embarrassing.

NYS: Wow... That's the kind of theatre history no-one here would remember. Thank you so much!

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  • 2016