Throughout this year’s George Town Festival, there are a few series with events in each week. One of the series we think looks both promising and fun is the puppetry series, which will be staged in Armenian Park. There will be four different shows, with three (arguably four) different countries of origin and so the series as a whole should be an interesting look at the role and history of puppetry across the globe. Whats more, every single one of these performances will be free, making them very accessible to all. Here’s our run down of what to expect with each.
- SBAEK THOM 4th/5th August 8:30PM
- Sbaek Thom is a form of traditional Cambodian Khmer Shadow theatre, and relays the story of the ‘Reamker’ an ancient adaption of the traditional Indian epic poem, the Ramayana. The Reamker is considered an integral part of Cambodian culture, and is seen in all art forms not just poetry and theatre. The story itself explores love, loyalty and revenge, and in it’s Cambodian form incorporates Buddhist beliefs in balance and justice. The story opens with the creation of the universe, and develops into a battle between two great armies.
- THE LOVE OF THE FOX CELESTIAL 23 August 6:00PM
- This is a famous opera originating from Teochow in China, based on one of Pu Songling’s 17th century compilation of supernatural short stories. It tells the story of a love triangle between a human man, the ghost of his fiancée and the ‘celestial fox’. The performance will be by Penang’s Teochew Opera House, in a traditional style which developed from the practise of Chinese shadow puppetry brought to Penang by émigrés during the 19th century. The performance will be in Teochew with an English handout.
- PULCINELLA IN GEORGE TOWN 18th and 19th August 4:30PM and 8:30PM
- The Italian puppet master, Massimo Godoli Peli, bring his mischievous character ‘Pulcinella’ for four free performances in the 3rd week of the festival. Despite being performed in a mix of Chinese, English and Italian, this performance is based on traditional European street puppetry. It promises to be a light hearted, humorous performance (quite a different genre from all others in the series) and will be perfect especially suited for families and young children.
- WAYANG KULIT 1st and 2nd September 8:30PM
- The final show in the series is a Malaysian traditional form of shadow puppetry. Wayang kulit performances most often depict the Hindu epics of the Ramayana (as in Sbaek Thom) and the Mahabharata, with progression through the stories facilitated by a ‘tok dalang’ or narrator. This performance will be brought to us by a troupe from Kedah, the Wayang Kulit Seri Asun. They tell stories that are pertinent to the present, incorporating humour and wit into this updated version of a very traditional art form.
By Ella Benson Easton