PENANG’S renowned Teochew iron-rod master puppeteer Ling Goh forged a groundbreaking bridge between traditional Teochew art form and Southeast Asian folklore with ‘IBU’ – an extraordinary theatre performance inspired by the famous folklore, ‘Si Tanggang’.
Hundreds of viewers were awestruck by IBU at Loft 29 in George Town today as the performers put on a scintillating show which kept the audience at the edge of their seats.
The performers were from none other than the Iron Gang Puppet Theatre, the first-of-its-kind contemporary iron-rod puppet troupe that explores the aesthetics and symbolism of Teochew iron-rod puppetry.
The iron-rod puppetry originated in the Chaozhou (Teochew) region in China.
As for the show IBU, it revisits the traditional story to create contemporary meanings with the classic, while infusing local values and breathing new life into the traditional art.
Inspired by Si Tanggang, the production team of IBU spent two and a half years in experimentation, exploration, devising and rehearsal to bring forth the world’s first contemporary iron-rod puppetry performance.
IBU tells the story of a young man Tanggang, who escapes his impoverished hometown and marries a foreign princess.
When he returns to his hometown as the husband of a princess, he feels ashamed of his humble origins and refuses to recognise his old and ugly mother.
Led by theatre director Ling Tang, visual artist Stephen Teoh, multidisciplinary digital artist Abdul Shakir, indie band FAZZ, four young puppeteers and a team of experienced production talents, tonight’s show was made so memorable and emotional for the audience.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and wife Tan Lean Kee, Air Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee and George Town Festival (GTF) director Jack Wong were present at the theatre.
As for some background on the iron-rod puppetry, it evolved from the Chinese paper-shadow puppetry carrying rich cultural history and meanings.
However, it is undeniable that this traditional puppetry is slowing becoming a dying trade in this modern era and is on the brink of extinction.
Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix and video by Darwina Mohd Daud