Shadow Puppet Theatre

Putra manages the on-site Wayang Shadow Puppet Theatre where you can catch authentic Balinese Shadow Puppet shows at 20:00 / 8.00 pm every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights. To avoid disappointment, please get in touch to reserve your tickets in advance. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of each performance.

The Shadow Puppet Theatre

The screen and its properties all symbolise life on earth. The dalang is likened to God, the “great dalang in the sky.” The kelir (screen), stretched across bamboo poles, symbolises the universe. The gedebong (banana tree trunk) at the base of the screen into which the puppets are stuck, is Pertiwi, Mother Earth. The rope used to stretch the screen is symbolic of human muscles and tendons. The damar (oil lamp) is the sun, giving life and energy to the world. The lamp is lit with three skeins of thread representing the Hindu gods Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa.
The puppeteer sits in the middle, with the puppets on the “good” side making their entrance from his right, the “bad” side from his left. Puppets not used are propped up on either side of the screen; these represent the pull between left and right. Sitting cross-legged, the dalang holds a cepala (wooden knocker) between the first and second toes of his right foot. This is used to sound metal clappers hanging from the puppet box or to hit the box itself. A second knocker is often held in the left hand and knocked against the lid on his left. Two assistants untangle and hand him puppets, pour coconut oil into the lamp, and make sure everything goes well. The man on the dalang’s left is said to be Wisnu; the one on the right, Brahma.

The Dalang

Probably the most difficult to learn of all Balinese arts is puppetry. A dalang not only must be able to re-enact stories in the immense repertoire and know all the characters well, but he must be able to change vocal qualities instantaneously. The dalang is a one-person show; even with assistants and musicians, the play is totally up to the dalang. He must manipulate the puppets, chant the numerous classics in the proper metrical form, perform a play appropriate to the situation, lead the musicians, dispense moral advice, and in some cases, act as a priest. And he must hold the audience’s attention for hours at a time. Being funny helps!

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