Guandong Puppet Art Theatre

Seen on July 11, 2015 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

It is not often that a 2000 year old art form is still accessible and enchanting to an audience. Master puppeteers of the Guandong Art Puppet Theatre premiered their elegant play at the National Art Festival. A sequence of stories from mythology, folktales and opera were masterfully and beautifully elegant presented by a group of men and women performing with intricate dolls that are the only remaining example of authentic Chinese puppetry.

The sheer beauty of the dragon and feniks, symbol of luck and happiness in an eternal dance accompanied by a woman with a flute and another with a string instrument immediately showed that we were in for something of world class. The ever friendly faces of the players that often held one puppet among 3 players was just one of the indicators of the elegance that permeated the show.

With gracious movements, adorable puppets the next piece of mythology a female figure was played by a male actor. This combination is part of the two thousand year long history of puppetry in China.

Next came a humorous story about a fisherman and a crane, about the coexistence of men and animals. The fisherman tries to prevent a crane from stealing the fresh caught fish.

No Eastern tale without a tea ceremony. The incredible difficult technique to serve tea with a puppet and the raging anger was based on an ancient poem.

A more lighthearted piece was the one with the funfair beats and 3 dancing guitar playing clowns gone wild.

Fire showed a Chinese warrior marionette with 30 strings that was able to do the most complex movements as drawing a sword from his back and even spit fire. The dancing girls and the dancing Emperor that followed were again a showcase of elegance.

To conclude a traditional lovesong between a puppet and an actor became a wondrous dance with swirling drapes.

Guandong Puppet Art Theatre bestowed honour on their guest by inviting the audience into a performance of unforgettable beauty and elegance.