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mainteater | Kliping Berita | The Sunday Age | 22 Oktober 2000

Theater : Steven Carroll

A man (Wawan Sofwan) sits on stage with a revolver at his head. He is counting to a thousand and he tells the audience that when he gets there he’s going to blow his head off. His English translator (Tiffany Ball) and a sign-language interpreter (Jodee Mundy) are on stage with him throughout the count.

Happy 1000… 1000 Bahagia is a richly layered piece of theatre from Australian/Indonesian company Mainteater. The production is based on Endlich Schluss by Austrian playwright Paul Turrini, which was translated from German to Indonesian, then from Indonesian into English. Mainteater is a multilingual company and, among other things, this show is about language, translation, interpretation and meaning.

The stage upon which the man sits is plastered with yesterday’s newspapers, which is fitting because he is a freelance journalist who has become utterly disillusioned. He writes with equal passion about the plight of the poor and the need for a globalised market place. He is true to one point of view one day and another the next. But far from seeing this as a sign of an open mind, he sees it as symptomatic of his com- plete inability to hold any point of view with conviction or to believe in anything for very long.

In many ways he possesses that alienated indifference that characterised so many of Camus’s characters. He observes himself going through the meaningless rituals of life and is nauseated and angered by what he sees. And words–his stock in trade– have now been abused to the point where they have become totally meaningless.

While the man tells his story, mostly in Indonesian, his translator and interpreter move in and out of his tale, happily translating and joining in the fun one minute, horrified by what they have to say the next.

At one stage he imagines destroying every fake word he’s ever written and throwing them in the rubbish bin. But his words come marching back up the footpath, under his door, along his legs and back into his brain. There is no escape. He deceives his wife and his mistress while looking for letters from a lost lover in the letterbox. And, all the way through his monologues and confessions, he is counting. Seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred. As he nears a thousand the tension mounts, for hanging over the whole 90-minute show is the question: what will he do when he gets there? `

This is a compelling, extremely entertaining production that moves easily between the light-hearted and the dark, the playful and the deadly serious. Given the range of moods in the piece, the ensemble performance is very smooth and director Sandra Long keeps things tense until the end.

‘Happy 1000   1000 Bahagia’
finishes today, with shows at 3pm and 8pm,
at The Black Box, Victorian Arts Centre.
Tickets: $11/$12.
Bookings: 9347 6142.
Rating: ****

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