Review: Gayatri (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

A traditional Indonesian with narration, Gayatri the Queen Consort of the Majapahit Kingdom pays tribute to an spiritual icon.

Mia Johannes (mhyajo) has concieved and created this fusion of spoken word, music and movement. The Nagarakertagama text of the 14th century, a eulogy to majesty and power, written by Mpu Prapanka, is her starting point and inspiration.

Although this is billed as opera, it is more drama and dance to music: it is of a form we rarely see in the West. I initially found the narration a little distracting, detracting slightly from Franki Raden’s beautiful music, but appreciated it later for context and storyline.

The story of Gayatri is one of a young princess seeking to find her destiny and honour her legacy, and that of her dead father, the King. Over several decades we follow her story: often compelling, sometimes confusing, always reverent.

Gayatri moves within the space clad in gold – everyone else is in shades of monochrome which make her stand out. Afrilia Mustika Sari portrays the princess with a combination of peace and calm, almost gliding through the action, often orchestrating the movement.

Promotional image for Gayatri

The dancing is strong and powerful, with moments of violence directed at a fast pace or filmed in slow motion, highlighting the tableaux painted by the words we hear.the choreography is beautiful in itself, telling its own story.

This show is an unexpected pleasure, and not one I would usually have sought out: such are the moments of surprise you gain by immersing yourself in a fringe festival.

Co-directed by Bona Palma, this is such a richly detailed piece it demands more than one viewing to fully appreciate the work of the ensemble.

Gayatri is a brave and deeply ambitious spectacle which will reward close attention by the open-minded.

Fringe rating: ****

You can stream Gayatri on the Fringe Player platform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 30 August. Book your ticket here.