Puppet Origin Stories: Funny Old Tree
In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke to the Makers and Designers of the puppets we have in The Finger Players (TFP), to create the repository that is the Puppet Origin Stories – a humble effort to highlight the background, and the making and design history of these puppets. We hope that this can be a continued endeavour at TFP, and we hope that you can go on this journey with us.
The New Adventures of The Selfish Giant had two iterations – the first was designed and directed by Chong Tze Chien as a one-person show in partnership with McDonalds. The same script was later adapted into a three-hander, which was designed by Ang Hui Bin and directed also by Chong Tze Chien.
The performance used a mixture of mask work and shadow puppetry, and was designed to be performed to a large crowd in a school hall. The use of shadow puppetry was ideal to address the issue of visibility. Through varying the distance between the light source and the object, puppeteers were able to create larger-than-life images with a relatively small 2D puppet. In the initial research and development phase, Hui Bin wanted to find a light source that was mobile and fuss-free so as to reduce setup time and to create a greater sense of movement with the shadows. She experimented with different kinds of torchlights but did not manage to find one that was able to provide the intensity and focus needed in shadow puppetry. Eventually, Hui Bin decided to use the overhead projector which despite not being as mobile as a wireless / battery operated light source, but was able to create very clear and sharp shadows because of its single filament bulb.
The Funny Old Tree was inspired by the bonsai – an East Asian art form that uses cultivation techniques to produce small trees that mimic the shape and scale of full-sized trees. Hui Bin was intrigued by concepts that were deeply rooted in traditional Asian values and to her, the bonsai encompassed the ability to grow again after total destruction, which suited the character of the Funny Old Tree.
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