As a significant ‘moment’ in twentieth-century international diplomacy, the rise of post-colonial Afro-Asia at the Bandung Conference of 1955 is replete with symbolic meanings. This paper proposes a conceptual approach to understanding the symbolic dimension of international diplomacy, and does so by ruminating on the newly unearthed Indonesian material on the Bandung Conference. To this end, ‘diplomacy as theatre’ is introduced as an interpretive framework to re-cast the conference as a theatrical performance, in which actors performed on the stage to audiences. Focusing on the city of Bandung, this paper reconstructs some examples of the ‘performative’ dimensions of international diplomacy, and elaborates on the notion of ‘staging’ the city and the role played by the people of Bandung, including the significance of conference venues, as well as the impromptu creation of a ritual citation that contributed to an iconic ‘performative act’ during the conference. Sukarno, Nehru, Zhou Enlai and Nasser all understood the importance as performers in their role as new international statesmen, representing the esprit de corps of the newly emergent post-colonial world. In deconstructing the symbolic, it will become evident that the role played by Indonesia significantly influenced the underlying script of the diplomatic theatre which unfolded at Bandung.