Chiao Wan Jan Puppet Troupe. Ping Deng Elementary School, Taipei, Taiwan on the World Music Stage, Garema PlaceWednesday, Thursday, Friday February 11-13, 2004, 6pm and Glebe Park Sunday February 15, 11am. National Multicultural Festival - free event.
One young gentleman informed me that he already knew the story of the three kings, which begins with the Monkey-king who lives in the water curtain cave where he is attacked by Ninjas, and so I realised how the Chinese tradition, via Japan's play stations, have infiltrated Australian culture. Much of what I saw, in my ignorance of the details of the story, looked like marvellous hand-puppets with all the action of a Bruce Lee / Jackie Chan movie, sometimes the subtleties of Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, and often a sense of humour reminiscent of the English Punch and Judy.
Your children will certainly enjoy a show that for the fifth graders from Taipei was obviously good fun to perform. But there is much more to this puppet troupe. In a similar way to how the Flying Fruit Fly Circus School operates in Albury, these students choose hand puppetry as an elective class in a school which employs Puppet Master Li Tien-Lu to pass on the traditional art. For 11 year olds who have been training for less than 3 years, the current Ping Deng students have learned skills of a high order indeed in expressive manipulation of the puppets, in stage voice work, and on traditional musical instruments. The effect is a miniature but complete Chinese opera, including acrobatics and even a puppet which spins a plate balanced on a stick just as in the circus.
What I found impressive was that the teachers were so competent that they could be the facilitators and assistants for their students, who had clearly become self-reliant, independent and confident performers. They have travelled before to Korea, Canada and Singapore, so we are benefitting from their experience. These young people have learned the art of self-expression through discipline. The complexities and detail of the puppets' movements, the speaking and music are as much as most adults would find a challenge to learn, yet backstage (which we can see in the open air staging) there was absolute teamwork, cooperation and good humour. Not to be missed.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
Return to Frank McKone'sHome Page