Since she made her highly acclaimed debut in the title role of “Miss Julie” in 1999, Indonesian actress Sha Ine Febriyanti has made a name for herself. The performance, which was an adaptation of a classic play by Sweden’s August Strindberg , marked a departure from her start in showbiz as a model and television actress.
Ine’s turn in “Miss Julie” set the tone for her later work, namely an unrelenting approach to her roles and her willingness to take on controversial subjects such as sex and the environment.
Recently, Ine took her acting to new heights by co-starring with French acrobatic theater duo Rictus in a performance of the contemporary play “Warm” at South Jakarta’s Salihara Theater.
The play, which was jointly presented by Salihara and the Institute Francais d’Indonesie , was a highlight of the Helateater festival as well as the IFI’s Printemps Francais cultural festival.
Ine delivered a monologue in “Warm,” a sexually charged play about a woman describing her fantasies with two men.
“‘Warm’ was a total experience for me. It’s definitely a subconscious one, as I would not carry out the things that are described in it,” Ine said of her monologue in “Warm,” which was directed by French contemporary playwright David Bobee .
“The script in ‘Warm’ is also the hardest one that I’ve worked with so far. My previous work, like ‘Miss Julie’ and ‘Surti dan Tiga Sawunggaling,’ was complicated enough, as the former was a study of human nature that lasted for more than two hours, while the latter was a monologue in which I had to play 10 characters,” Ine said. “But ‘Warm’ was a different, more visceral experience.”
Ine said “Warm” was a way for her to step up her game.
“‘Warm’ was a profound experience for me, as I plunged into the subject and pulled the audience along with the words,” the 37-year-old actress explained.
Ine also lived up to the cultural and physical challenges of the play, which included performing on a stage heated to 45 degrees Celsius by two rows of strobe lights, with temperatures that rose as her descriptions grew more frenzied.
“I have never worked with David or Rictus before, and I had to do so on short notice. The script is like nothing I’ve ever worked with before, and lastly the performance is not part of our culture,” she said. “Plus I have to work on a hot stage with people and materials that are completely foreign to me. But afterward I feel close to everything around me, whether they be my cast members, the audience or myself.”
Ine said her work in “Warm” affirmed her passion for the theater, with everything it represents for her, and the reason she started in the field.
“I got my start in theater because … back then I was acting in sinetrons or Indonesian soap operas, and I felt no energy there. So I started theater because I felt that I needed to learn acting,” Ine said.
“I felt that the theater is the right place for me, because it gives me the place to learn many things, such as psychology, sociology and current affairs,” she added. “But most of all, I learned about life there. I bring out all of me when I’m on stage.”
Ine explained how acting on stage is raw and unedited, and that she gets the added benefit of sharing it directly with the audience in front of her. “It’s very different from movies or TV, as it’s all cut and edited and I don’t like that,” she continued. “I would rather act in theater, and direct for TV and big-screen movies.”
Ine’s film credits include the title role in the feature film “Beth,” and the 2012 omnibus “Kita Vs Korupsi” (“Us Versus Corruption”), which she directed.
Ine’s theater repertoire also touched on more lighthearted fare such as “Padusi,” which was performed at Central Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center in April. Aside from being a comedy about a woman’s efforts to find herself, the play was also designed to enlighten the Indonesian public.
“‘Padusi’ is designed to encourage the Indonesian public to go to theater more frequently,” Ine said. “Its light subject matter is ideal to this purpose. The entertaining approach is similar to that adopted by Teater Koma , but it’s more tailored to the general public, as they are notoriously ignorant about the theater.”
Ine’s versatility and committed approach to theater made an immediate impression on her fellow cast members.
“Ine is a very smart actress, and she connected with me and my work. She also understood the points perfectly,” said Bobee, who wrote “Warm” in 2008. “I was also totally amazed by the intensity she gave to the performance, which was nothing less than burning hot.
“She’s also a classy lady. Ine delivered ‘Warm’ in an elegant way. The play addresses issues such as women’s fantasies, sexuality and sexual acts. But she managed to convey those themes without making them vulgar. Those issues would have come out as gross in the hands of a lesser actress.”
Ine’s monologue also left the audience spellbound.
“I was fascinated by Ine’s hypnotic use of words like ‘men,’ ‘heat’ and ‘sweat’ to convey the sexual imagery of the play. The words, and the heat emanating from the stage, gave ‘Warm’ the feel of a four-dimensional movie, as we get to feel what the cast feels,” said Rennie, an Indonesian theater fan who witnessed Ine’s performance at Salihara.
“The universality of feeling that she gave to the performance is also worthy of praise. Its obvious that neither Ine nor [Rictus] understood one another’s language, yet there is a certain synchronicity between their moves and her monologue.”
Ine expressed hope that she could perform “Warm” elsewhere in Indonesia or maybe even throughout Southeast Asia but she and Bobee have different schedules, so they have to put this plan on hold for the moment.
Nonetheless Ine is still working toward some exciting projects that are in line with her creed of acting on stage and directing.
“I plan to direct a movie addressing the 1965 crackdown on communists throughout Indonesia,” Ine said.
“The film is still in its beginning stages, as I am still scouring locations for it throughout Java. I will also return to the stage at the end of this year to perform a series of plays. But right now all that’s up in the air, so we shall see.”
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on June 25, 2013