The performance started with a small play titled “Joyous Yuan Xiao Festival”. Amai, Miko and I have watched this small play on Friday night already, but for today, the puppeteers will be performing directly on stage and not behind the screen. The audience was watching with their eyes wide opened as it is an eye-opener seeing how the puppeteers manipulate their marionettes.
“Joyous Yuan Xiao Festival” is adapted from traditional marionette small play “Entering the City”. “Entering the City” tells about the tale of how some Liangshan heroes tried to sneak into the city while disguising themselves as street artisans. They tried to pass off as “Paixiong” dancers, “Lian Hua Luo” singers, acrobatic performers, street musicians and lion dance performers, and the guardian official of the city could not see through their disguise. For “Joyous Yuan Xiao Festival”, the main contents were more or less the same, except for the inclusion of a dance segment by 4 old ladies. This dance segment is a very unique act, as the marionettes used are actually two-in-one; at one point of the dance segment, these “old ladies” fell flat on the ground and within split seconds they transformed into beautiful maidens! When I first watched it on Friday night, I thought the puppeteers used 2 different marionettes for this trick, but today I realized that they were actually the same puppet, but one hidden inside the skirt of another.
The actual show started immediately after this segment. As compared to “Thrice Hitting the White Bone Demoness”, I like this show more. Although this is not a fighting show, there’s lots of humour and wit in this show, and the marionettes sprang into life under the manipulation of these skillful puppeteers. On the bad side, however, is that the show is entirely in Mandarin (Mandarin with a strong hint of Hokkien accent, that is!), and the music was all pre-recorded.
It’s my habit to not stay rooted in my seat, but go to the backstage to see the happenings behind the scene (not applicable for indoor performances) from time to time. And with my interest in photography, I grabbed the camera and made a few trips to the backstage. This place is equally interesting! The puppeteers were all standing on a high platform of about 2 metres manipulating the marionettes. I wonder how they managed to do that at such a great height, remembering which string is connected to which part of the marionette, and having to sing or talk at the same time. Also, the puppeteers had to co-ordinate well with his partner (usually you need two persons to manipulate one puppet for complex movements) for optimal stage effect.
Tomorrow shall be the last day of their performance, and I think it should be at least half a year more before I can get to see them in action again. Hopefully my Chinese opera performances will not clash with my puppet-watching routine then!