Lenong is a form of
theatre traditional to the
Betawi people of
Jakarta, Indonesia. Dialogue is generally in the
Betawi dialect. Actions and dialogue are often presented in a humorous manner on top of a stage known as a pentas tapal kuda, so named for the way actors enter the stage from the left and right. Audiences sit in front of the stage. The number of performers is determined by the needs of the story. Male performers are referred to as panjak, while female performers are known as
ronggeng. Performers are generally poorly educated.
A performance is generally opened with a prayer, known as ungkup, and a ritual offering. The performers are then introduced.
Gambang kromong is one of the musical genres which may accompany a performance. Musicians may use various instruments, including flutes, gongs, accordions, or drums. The songs are traditionally quite formulaic, and several songs are common in performances, including "Cente Manis" and "Jali-Jali". Chinese musical influences can be seen.
Performances can be classified under many genres, although most are about heroes or criminals; tales adapted from folklore, such as from the
One Thousand and One Nights, are also common. In broad strokes there are two main subdivisions of lenong, namely lenong denes and lenong preman. Stories in lenong denes focus on the exploits of the nobility, the rich, and the powerful. Lenong preman stories are always about commoners or folk heroes. The type of performance will affect the costumes worn. Stories are not memorised from a script. Rather, performers will memorise an orally-presented outline and follow that, with improvisation as necessary.