I’ve never seen a marionette/puppet performance in my life, so when a friend Belinda Tan posted in Facebook about the Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe performing outside the Asian Civilisations Museum, I went for it.
Held on 16 and 17th Feb from 6-9pm, the performance is part of the Regenerating Communities project, an initiative for remaking Empress Place featuring cultural art forms to revitalise communities and reaffirm cultural identities. According to the Creative Director, Jeremiah Choy, the time chosen allows the audience to experience the puppet performance as the sun sets, giving a different visual experience as the sky darkens.
The Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe is currently led by 62-year old Mr. Yang Lai Hao who has been learning and practising the art form since he was 7. He bought it over from his master, Mr. Zhu for a token sum of $3,000. It is the only remaining Heng Hwa puppet troupe in Singapore and Mr. Yang mentioned during a Q&A session that he is looking for successor to take over the troupe and keep the traditional art form alive. He has a cousin from Putian, China who is interested but unfortunately due to some red tape he is still unable to come over to Singapore to continue the legacy. Let’s hope this will be resolved soon so that this will not end up like the many other traditional art forms which have disappeared over the years.
Other than traditional puppets, Mr. Yang has also developed a new type of puppet which is meant to be more easily manipulable and appealing to the general person with their cuddly and cute appearance. It features battery-operated motorised legs and is featured in the next performace, “Monkey’s Wedding”.
By dusk, the stage has taken on a different look, with the warm and colourful lights of the stage set against the evening sky.
I also took a few shots of the backstage, where the puppeteers are hard at work manipulating their characters while the musicians provide the sound track. The last performance is “Wusong Fights the Tiger”, another Chinese classic.
To give an idea of what the puppet performance is like, I’ll leave you with a short video which I’ve shot from the “Wusong Fights the Tiger”. This is where Pan Jinlian encounters the tiger at Mount Jingyang.
Once again, many thanks to Belinda for notifying and inviting me to the event. It has been a real eye-opener and a pleasure to shoot. For more photos, please visit my Flickr set for the Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe.