Marionette marvels go on show at puppet festival

By Phatarawadee Phataranawik, The Nation/ANN

BANGKOK — All the magic of marionettes will light up Bangkok later this week as more than 400 puppeteers from eight ASEAN countries put on shows guaranteed to keep spectators spellbound. Brought to Thailand at the initiative of the Culture Ministry, the ASEAN Puppet Festival 2017 celebrates the long history of this art form while stimulating exchanges of knowledge among the member countries.

As well as live performances, the 12-day festival features the exhibition “Art of Thai and ASEAN Contemporary Puppets.” Showing at the Rajdamnoen Contemporary Art Center, it features marionette masterpieces, documentary videos, and workshops. The festival is part of month-long celebrations marking “The 235th Year of Rattanakosin City under Royal Benevolence.” Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat will officially open the event on Thursday in the National Theatre’s main hall in the company of diplomats from the ASEAN member states.

The festival will feature more than 50 troupes from Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as the host Thailand, which is presenting a rare performance of hun luang (royal puppets), normally only staged on royal occasions. Surat Jongda will lead her Kai Kaew troupe in the show. The festival also features the hun krabok (half-bodied puppet made of wood) and hun wang na (front palace puppet replicas).

Among the highlights of the festival is a performance by Joe Louis Theatre’s using hun lakorn lek to portray the story “Mahajanaka” based on the late King Bhumobol’s literary work of the same name. The story chronicles the Buddha in his incarnation as King Mahajanaka and his perseverance as he faces sinking ships and bloody succession feuds.