Iron-rod Puppet Show


Ipohites were in for a rare treat, as the Ipoh Fine Arts Society (IFAS) presented an iron-rod puppet theatre performed by Teochew Puppet & Opera House from Penang. The dying art was played to a crowd of over 100 on Saturday, September 29 at 19, Jalan Tun Sambanthan. It was the troupe’s first-ever show in Ipoh.

Telling the tale of “The Romance of the Celestial Fox”, the evening saw the tossing of puppets into the air to mimic acrobatic movements and musicians as well as puppeteers singing live at the top of their melodious voice. It was accompanied by special lighting effect and traditional instruments such as the high-pitched clapping of cymbals and the resounding striking of drums.

“Established way back in 1989, we’ve performed many programmes over the years from traditional Indian music and dance, Chinese symphony orchestra, Perak woodwind orchestra, a night of jazz and rock and roll to children’s theatre workshop. We’re a multicultural country and it’s nice to showcase all kinds of traditional art forms,” Shanti Lingam, president of IFAS said.

Present was patron of IFAS, Dato’ R. Thambipillay.

“The puppet show came from China about 300 to 400 years ago. My great-grandmother from China was involved in the Teochew Chinese opera. Living in poverty, my mother built this troupe when she was in her 20s to feed the whole family. She’s almost 70 now. Thus, we four siblings are also involved in the art,” Ling Goh, director of Teochew Puppet & Opera House and 4th generation Teochew, told Ipoh Echo.

“It’ll take a month to make just one puppet because the process is complicated. For example, the body is made of wood, fingers of kite paper and head of clay. Meanwhile, the costume is sewed by hand. The art is getting rare and we’re building interest among the young generation for it,” she added.

The Teochew Puppet & Opera House is located at 122, Armenian Street, George Town 10200 Penang. It has a museum exhibiting Teochew puppet, costumes, musical instruments and authentic hand-copied scripts, as well as a performance space for cultural talks, workshops and demonstrations. They welcome volunteers and students.

To find out more, swing by their Facebook page: TeochewPuppetAndOpera.

Mei Kuan

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