SELECTED PROJECT INTERPRETATION

NE ZHA, 1999

TEATER MUDA PROGRAMME, FIVE ARTS CENTRE, KUALA LUMPUR 1991-2002

In this project, the antics of Ne Zha, a playful child folk hero from Chinese mythology, were interpreted through a puppetry performance which combined shadow, human, rod and object puppetry accompanied by live music. This Theatre-in-Community production, toured several public housing flats in Kuala Lumpur playing to approximately 2000 community audiences. 

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Ne Zha DBKL Poster

Ne Zha DBKL Poster

Interpretation is based on archival records and memory recollection of participants.

Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)

NE ZHA FACTS

1.1 Programme Name

Teater Muda Programme, Five Arts Centre – Young Theatre Penang, 1991-2002

1.2 Project Title

Ne Zha, 1999

1.3 Context and Objective

The performance of Ne Zha was the culmination of Phase 7 of the Teater Muda Training Programme (July-Dec 1998), which was offered by Five Arts Centre to 15 children aged 10-16 years of age. Teater Muda training often allows for participants and the artist-instructors to move towards a more professional output where children experience the discipline of a full-fledged performance for a community audience.

In this phase of training, the children had several instructors: Leow Puay Tin for theatre, Marion D’Cruz for creative movement, Robin Ho for Wu Shu (Chinese martial arts) and Chinese drumming, Charlene Rajendren for rhythm and text workshops, and Liew Kung Yu for object puppetry. The performance provided an opportunity for the visual arts instructor to take the training in object puppetry to a more challenging level, and for the children to experience how puppetry music and movement could come together in an integrated performance.

This production by Teater Muda was performed in collaboration with the public housing unit of Kuala Lumpur City Hall and its community libraries. It marked the first attempt by Teater Muda to tour an outdoor performance to a community audience. A total of 14 shows were performed between 22nd May and 6th June 1999, with the troupe performing in open spaces such as badminton and volleyball courts, playgrounds and quadrangles fronting City Hall public housing flats, and included two performances in the Concourse Area of the Suria KLCC shopping mall.

1.4 Project Description

This performance combines 3 exciting forms of puppetry – shadow, object and human puppetry. The puppets are creative works of art. Each puppet is designed from an assemblage of domestic and industrial objects such as toys, containers, utensils, tools, decorative items etc. in order to highlight the amazing medium of puppetry, hardly any language is used. Instead, the story is told through the subtle and dramatic movements of the puppets and through the use of live music.

1.5 Source Material

Stories of the legendary boy character, Ne Zha, have frequently appeared in Chinese mythology and literature such as Fengshen Yanyi (or Investiture of the Gods). The story selected for this performance is one of the more popular tales, entitled Ne Zha Riots the Seas, better known by the vernacular title Ne Zha Conquers the Dragon King.

1.6 Co-Producer

Marion D’Cruz (Five Arts Centre)

1.7 Project Lead

Liew Kung Yu & Janet Pillai

1.8 Creative Team

Puppet Design & Construction: Liew Kung Yu
Music: Bernard Goh of Hands Percussion
Lighting: Bernard Chauly
Directing: Liew Kung Yu & Janet Pillai

1.9 Participants

Mohd. Arifwaran, Adrian Kok, Ryan Lee Baskaran, Low Pay Fern, Ghazidi Ariff, Ng Wei Shan, Izra Jasmin

SCHOOL/COMMUNITY AGE GROUP COMMENTS
Participants from mixed schools 11-21 years 4 children, 3 youth

1.10 Events and Activities

DATE VENUE TOWN/CITY
Training

Rehearsals from Jan-May 1999

Five Arts Centre

TTDI

Kuala Lumpur
Performances

22 May 1999

Suria KLCC
24 May 1999 Desa Tun Razak DBKL flats Cheras
25 May 1999 Sri Kota  DBKL flats Cheras
26 May 1999 Sri Sabah DBKL flats Cheras
27 May 1999 Sri Negeri DBKL flats Sentul
29 May 1999 Sri Terengganu DBKL flats Sentul
30 May 1999 Sri Pahang DBKL flats Bangsar
31 May 1999 Sri Kelantan DBKL flats Sentul
1 June 1999 Sri Perak DBKL flats Sentul
2 June 1999 PPR Jelatek DBKL flats Ampang
3 June 1999 PPR Gombak DBKL flats Gombak
4 June 1999 Sri Selangor DBKL flats Kuala Lumpur
5 June 1999 Sri Sarawak DBKL flats Kuala Lumpur
6 June 1999 Petronas Gallery, Suria KLCC Kuala Lumpur

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme

The promotional materials consisted of simple posters and free passes, and were prepared by the Public Housing Department of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

Supporting Archival Materials

DBKL poster

DBKL pass

1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum

The plot, derived from the story Ne Zha Conquers the Dragon King, was adapted by Ho Yiu Wang (a television drama scriptwriter) into a five-act scenario made up of 14 scenes. There was no script per se, only descriptions of unfolding scenes which were then dramatised through puppetry, movement and music.

Supporting Archival Materials

Ne Zha- A puppet performance by Teater Muda 1999

1.13 Multimedia Documentation

The story opens with the wife of a human general giving birth after a three-year long pregnancy, to a ball of flesh shaped like a lotus bud, from which springs a mischievous baby boy who can already speak and walk. Ne Zha is sent away to be disciplined by a master from whom he acquires special powers. Later, he becomes involved in a misunderstanding with the son of the undersea Dragon King, who creates chaos for humans on earth and refuses to stop unless the boy is killed. In the end, Ne Zha sacrifices himself to save the human kingdom from further destruction. His master, greatly moved by his pupil’s heroic act, gives him a new lease of life.

Performance at Pekeliling Flats 1999

1.15 Publications

N/a

1.16 Photographs

Refer to “VIDEO/SLIDESHOW OF FINAL OUTPUT”

1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:

N/A

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW OF FINAL OUTPUT

Synopsis of Story: The story opens with the wife of a human general giving birth after a three-year long pregnancy, to a ball of flesh shaped like a lotus bud, from which springs a mischievous baby boy who can already speak and walk. Ne Zha is sent away to be disciplined by a master from whom he acquires special powers. Later, he becomes involved in a misunderstanding with the son of the undersea Dragon King, who creates chaos for humans on earth and refuses to stop unless the boy is killed. In the end, Ne Zha sacrifices himself to save the human kingdom from further destruction. His master, greatly moved by his pupil’s heroic act, gives him a new lease of life.

 

Supporting Archival Materials

Ne Zha (1999) (YouTube)

ART MAKING PROCESS

The making of Ne Zha can be viewed as a collaborative work involving adult artists and young performers. The cast of Ne Zha comprised 4 children and 3 youth performers from Teater Muda Phase 7, and 4 adult musicians from Hands Percussion. Rehearsals and the building of puppets took a period of 3-months. 

Adult artists played an equal role as the children in the making of this production; Liew Kung Yu constructed the puppets, Bernard Goh composed the music, while Bernard Chauly managed the lighting. Artist Liew Kung Yu and children’s theatre practitioner Janet Pillai co-directed the production.

The puppets for this performance were made from domestic and industrial waste; empty tin containers, plastic bottles, utensils, equipment parts, tools, cardboard, etc. The manipulation techniques for the puppets were drawn from the Malaysian traditions of shadow and rod puppets. Puppets were sometimes manipulated behind a makeshift screen in full visibility of the audience. The puppets were not painted so that the original found objects were recognisable to the audience, apart from the addition of eyes or whiskers, etc.

The greatest challenge for the young performers was mastering several forms of puppet manipulation and imbibing the puppets with life and feelings. The second most challenging task was syncing the dialogue and movement to the sounds of the music instruments.

Performance Description

The performance was devoid of dialogue, and instead used a variety of sounds from percussive and wind instruments to indicate communication between characters. Live music and instrumentation by performers from the group Hands Percussion accompanied the characters’ movements, provided mood and atmosphere, and wove the tale together. There were a total of 7 original music compositions including sound pieces.

The staging of the performance was unique in that the audience was seated in the centre, while the performance took place around them (both on the edges of the audience as a group, as well as interwoven in the audience). This setting was meant to allow the audience to imagine themselves as humans on earth watching the happenings in heaven which was on the outside, as well as happenings under the sea which was in their midst.

Supporting Archival Materials

Ne Zha- A puppet performance by Teater Muda 1999

Ne Zha – Open, independent soul (Ambikaipaker, Mohan – The Edge [June 7 1999])