Masks for Topèng Pajegan Isteri

Condong by I Wayan Tangguh

The Condong, like her male equivalent the Panasar, conventionally the first actor on stage. Her role is to set the scene, fill in the background to the plot and to link the audience to the performance. She also speaks for her mistress, the Puteri, who dances and sometimes sings, but does not speak. The Condong is a lively character, who must be skilled at repartee and defending her mistress against innuendo and attack. Depending on the story the Condong may be a Lady in Waiting, a maid or a friend. Throughout the play it is she who keeps the audience up to date with what is happening and may comment on events as needed. The Condong is a demanding role, as she is the anchor for the whole play.

Puteri Tangguh sm

The Puteri is the refined female role. Depending on the story, she may be a princess, the heroine or the love interest. She exemplifies female virtues and is of good character. Although occasionally she may sing, as she has a full mask she usually only dances, her thoughts and feelings being expressed by the Condong. The Puteri is always a refined role,  but has a counter-part in a coarse character who is down to earth and says what she thinks. The Puteri, by contrast, must express everything through her dance and movements.

Dagang Ancung Tangguh sm

Whereas the Condong and Puteri are established female roles, for example in Arja, the Dagang Ancung is usually a minor Bondrès character. She is an itinerant peddler of the kind who tries to sell bric-a-brac to tourists. She is practical, forthright, talkative, vulgar and with little sense of her own gaucheness. Ni Madé Pujawati has decided to turn her into a major figure in Topèng, because she can fill a wide range of roles from a light comic interlude to the Désak in Arja who can tell the blunt truth to stupid or mad characters played by the Liku in Arja.

Limbur Tangguh sm

The Limbur is the role of an elder woman. Depending on the story, she may be the Queen, a mother or some other older female role. The Limbur may be either a good or a bad character, but, as the mask suggests, is normally of good or at least respectable birth, and a figure of some authority. She often plays the mother or step-mother of the Puteri. In Topèng Pajegan Isteri, where there are no male characters such as kings, the Limbur represents the voice of power and the establishment.

Topeng Tua Luh Tangguh sm

The Luh Tua (literally 'The Old Woman' in Low Balinese) is an ordinary elderly village woman. As her face shows, she is worn out by a lifetime of hard work and difficulty which is the lot of most women in Bali. Like such women, although she is old and complains of her ailments and problems, she also has great common sense and an ability to see through the boasts and fine claims that people make. Her role in Topèng Pajegan Isteri is flexible. She can play the role of elderly retainers etc. She also provides the opportunity to offer commentary on the pretensions of the rich and powerful.

© Mark Hobart 2015