Thailand and its neighbours join up for the 2017 edition of the Asean Puppet Festival
The magic of marionettes will light up Bangkok later this week as more than 400 puppeteers from eight Asean countries put on shows guaranteed to keep spectators spellbound.
Brought to Thailand at the initiative of the Culture Ministry, the Asean Puppet Festival 2017 celebrates the long history of this art form while stimulating exchanges of knowledge among the member countries.
As well as live performances, the 12-day festival features the exhibition “Art of Thai and Asean Contemporary Puppets”. Showing at the Rajdamnoen Contemporary Art Centre, it featuresmarionette masterpieces, documentary videos, and workshops. The festival is part of month-long celebrations marking “The 235th Year of Rattanakosin City under Royal Benevolence”.
Hun luang or royal puppets from Thailand are among the highlights of the Asean Puppet Festival 2017, which kicks off this week. Photo courtesy of Culture Ministry
Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat will officially open the event on Thursday in the National Theatre’s main hall in the company of diplomats from the Asean member states.
The festival will feature more than 50 troupes from Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as the host Thailand, which is presenting a rare performance of hun luang (royal puppets), normally only staged on royal occasions. Surat Jongda will lead her Kai Kaew troupe in the show. The festival also features the hun krabok (half-bodied puppet made of wood) and hun wang na (front palace puppet replicas).
Among the highlights of the festival is a performance by Joe Louis Theatre’s using hun lakorn lek to portray the story “Mahajanaka” based on the late King Bhumobol’s literary work of the same name.
The story chronicles the Buddha in his incarnation as King Mahajanaka and his perseverance as he faces sinking ships and bloody succession feuds.
Nang Yai Wat Khanon from Ratchaburi, which was recently added to the list of Unesco’s World Heritage, will also perform. Photo courtesy of Culture Ministry
Hun Sai Sema by Silpathorn awardee Nimit Pipitkul will showcase contemporary string puppets while national artist Narong Chanpum from Trang in Thailand’s south will stage nang lalung. For the little ones, there are cute hand puppets from Mummy Puppet. The famous Nang Yai Wat Khanon from Ratchaburi, which was recently added to the list of Unesco’s World Heritage, will also perform.
The festival will introduce both traditional and contemporary puppets from other Asean countries.
Vietnam National Puppetry Theatre returns to Bangkok with the contemporary award-winning puppet play “Nhip Dieu Que Huong” (“Country Soul or Homeland Melody”). Photo courtesy of Culture Ministry
Vietnam National Puppetry Theatre makes its return to Bangkok after winning the top award at the Harmony World Puppet Carnival in Bangkok a few years back. The troupe introduces a contemporary award-winning puppet performance called “Nhip Dieu Que Huong” (“Country Soul or Homeland Melody”). To represent the traditional as well as contemporary life of the Vietnamese, the show features various traditional folk songs and puppets made from bamboo and rattan. The puppets are not merely manipulated but given life when combined with different body parts of the puppeteers. This colourful and lively puppetry show attracts children of all nationalities.
The Lao National Puppet Theatre Troupe, better known as Kabong Lao also makes its return to Bangkok with a new performance. The troupe performs object theatre, a contemporary style of puppetry known as hun kabong, developed in 1999 with assistance from French experts. To raise awareness of environmental issues and at the same time reflect the cultural life of the Lao people, the puppets are made from recycled materials and everyday objects such as boxes, bamboo, dried coconut leaves and rice containers. The puppeteers also integrate parts of their body with the puppets. Puppet figures comprise humans, animals as well as plants, such as the champa, the national flower of Laos.
The Philippines is sending the Mulat Puppet Theatre to the festival. Photo courtesy of Culture Ministry
The Philippines is sending the Mulat Puppet Theatre, a contemporary puppet troupe founded in 1977 by Professor Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio, which is inspired by the Indonesian wayang golek (rod puppet) and wayang kulit (shadow puppet), the Japanese bunraku and Thai hun lakorn lek. The troupe has represented the country at various international events. The shows often feature children’s plays, with actors or puppets based on Philippine or Asian folktales. Teatrong Mulat’s presentation is composed of two parts – “The Trial Among Animals”, a shadow and rod puppetry show based on a Philippine folktale and “The Song of Baylan”, an adaptation of the ritual ceremony of a tribe in Philippines.
Cambodia is sending a troupe from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to perform a show with its traditional small leather puppets. Sbek Toch is a type of shadow theatre featuring two-dimensional cowhide puppets with movable parts, manipulated from behind a screen using thin rods attached to the head and limbs of the puppets. The puppet designs are derived from bas-relief figures from Angkor Wat. The troupe will portray the story of “Len Thoung”, a comical folklore tale that features fights, disguises and love affairs.
The Myanmar Culture Troupe will showcase the traditional Myanmar puppets known as yoke thay. The show takes place on a platform, on which the puppeteers stand behind a painted backdrop covering the lower half of their bodies, manipulating the puppets in front of the backdrop from above. The traditional shows are accompanied by songs, dialogues and music. The beginning is marked with the ritual dance for Nat, the good spirit, followed by the Himalayan forest scenes – the formation of the world – featuring animal dances. There will also be an interaction between the puppets and human dancers.
Singapore is sending Paper Money Thaetre to the festival. Photo courtesy of Culture Ministry.
Singapore’s Paper Monkey Theatre adopts Teochew Metal Rod Puppetry, the traditional performing art of Singapore, introduced by the immigrants from Southern China. Unlike other puppetry techniques in which the puppets are manipulated from above or below, the Teochew Metal Rod puppeteers perform from behind the puppets, sitting down. The small human shape puppets are manipulated by three metal rods attached to their back and limbs. Traces of Chinese opera can be found in the characterisation of the puppets, their attire, the narration, songs, as well as the stories performed. In a contemporary theatrical style, the troupe will perform “Web of Deceit,” a fascinating tale from “Journey to the West”, where the monk Master Tang San Zang and his disciples struggle to overcome the crafty Spider.
Indonesia’s Madya Pujangga is a performing art group that basically starts from the traditional concept of wayang golek. Since its establishment in 2009, Madya Pujangga has focused on local wisdom, performing wayang golek combined with multimedia, dance and fine art.
STORIES ACROSS BORDERS
- The “Asean Puppet Festival 2017 is being staged at four venues in the Dusit area from Thursday to April 25. They are:
- the auditorium of the Rajdamnoen Contemporary Art Centre from 1pm to 4pm
- National Theatre’s main hall, from 4pm to 9pm.
- In front of Jessadabordin Pavilion opposite the Golden Temple on Rachadamnoen Klang Avenue, from 4-9pm
- Santi Chaiprakarn Park on Phra Arthit Road, from 7.30pm-8.30pm
- The exhibition “Art of Thai and Asean Contemporary Puppets” is on display at the Rajdamnoen Contemporary Art Centre from Wednesday to April 30. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm.
- Admission is free. For more information call (02) 422 8829, hotline 1765 or visit www.Ocac.go.th