It is 1927 on the island of Java, Indonesia. Planter Willem van Erk is severely ill and doesn’t have much longer to live. Nyai, his concubine, receives a stream of visitors: musicians, political activists, an accountant with bad motives, religious leaders. Without Van Erk’s protection she is a victim of mockery, exclusion and injustice.
Nyai’s life represents colonial life in the Dutch East Indies as it drew to a close. Her life in turn has been reduced to a single room. A Woman from Java is an experimental chamber play recorded in one take. The protagonist enters and exits through different doors in order to depict the changing seasons. Dialogues have been interspersed with traditional song and dance, with countless historic and cultural references. In a Shakespearean way, the main story is occasionally interrupted for light-hearted asides by servants. But these also serve as sketches of the situation and have something to say about the rapidly changing world within which Nyai operates.