Temuan tale told with puppets and shadow theatre

**This article appeared in the print version of the New Straits Times.

IT was entertaining to see a Temuan tale unfolding in shadow puppet play, with some live action, and plenty of audience participation.

The simple tale called Hoong Siamang Hooong, is about a couple who search for fruit-laden trees in a mountain deep in the rainforest. But they meet the Guardian of the Mountain, an ape, and trouble begins.

“Hoong, hoong, hoong” was the call in the forest as the couple went on their fruit-full mission.

Inspired by Kenneth See’s picture-book called Temuan, the tale offered the love of nature by the indigenous people and a bit of the otherworldly realm which people share.

The tale was oral tradition for the Temuan, told through a song called Inen Lagu Siamang Tunggal.

Actors, seated on both sides of the Play Haus small stage, used slide projectors to cast silhouettes onto the screen at the back of the stage. They controlled the story with such silhouettes and sometimes, would leave only to appear on stage as part of the story.

There were three actors, and they handled their many roles – of shadow puppet masters, voices, walk-ons – without glitches, kudos to director Chang Wei Loy.

The audience, with children in the front seats, was responsive to the antics on stage by Ng Yuan Ci, Liang Ka En and Low Wai Kei.

Ng, who appeared in Kee Thuan Chye’s play “1984 Here and Now”, is a theatre graduate of New Era University College, as too Liang, who is also  co-founder of the Troubadour Theatre Group.

Low is a full-time drummer and performer of the Orang Orang Drum Theatre since 2015, but took part in director Chang’s 2017 staging of “The Myth of the Sunrise”.

Linda Ang (Founder of Hongjiejie Work Station, Producer of Hoong Siamang Hooong) talking to the children after the show

Linda Ang (Founder of Hongjiejie Work Station, Producer of Hoong Siamang Hooong) talking to the children after the show

The trio kept the children engrossed enough to laugh at the jokes and answer queries thrown at them.

The moral of the tale I believe is that we will face difficulties in life, but we can’t be afraid but like the Temuan couple, must learn to overcome fear and face life with courage.

When the hour-long play ended, Hongjiejie Work Station founder and the play’s producer Linda Ang conversed with the children in Mandarin about aspects of the play. Ang has made a name for her children’s plays, and is currently a producer at Play Haus, an arts space at Pearl Shopping Gallery in Old Klang Road.

The follow-through by the production team in the overall message is impressive, with  vegetable seeds, as a token from the nature-loving Temuan, and some puppetry tools.

It was a sweet, enjoyable affair for families, and the children.

Cover pic is of the ape, all stuffed with fruits stolen from the Temuan couple. All pix courtesy of Hongjiejie Work Station





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