The Monkey King Adventures: Love of Onibaba
The Japanese Team ITO collaborates with Penang’s Ombak Potehi to stage a localised sequel to the literary classic Journey to the West. As in the original story, Tang Sam Tsong, the legendary Tang dynasty Buddhist monk, travels to India to look for sacred scriptures. He is accompanied by Sun Ngoo-khong (Monkey King), Tu Pat Kai (Pigsy), and Sua Tseng (Friar Sandy). However, on their return journey from India, they are tricked by Onibaba, a female supernatural monster in Japanese folklore, to disembark at Penang Island. Disguised as a beautiful lady, Onibaba dances and sings about how she has fallen in love with Tang in her dream. She orders her yokai (supernatural monsters) to kidnap Tang. The Monkey King and his friends frantically look for Tang and fight with the yokai monsters in a series of spectacular battles. Who wins? Is Onibaba’s love for Tang ever returned? See the show to find out the answers. Be captivated by the thrilling fighting scenes featuring string puppets that split into two, and flying potehi glove puppets!
About Team ITO - Edo Ito Ayatsuri Ningyo
Team ITO was established in 2014 by SHIOKAWA Kyoko, a puppet maker/puppeteer of Edo Ito Ayatsuri Ningyo, a traditional Japanese marionette puppet theatre. Edo refers to the old name of Tokyo, Ito to the string, Ayatsuri to its manipulation techniques and Ningyo to the puppet. It is believed that this type of string puppet theatre emerged as folk entertainment in seventeenth-century Japan, one of which is the Youkiza puppet theatre troupe established in Tokyo in 1635. During the Edo period, a permanent theatre for this form of marionette puppet was built in the entertainment quarter in Tokyo, together with theatres for Kabuki.
A special feature of the Japanese Edo Ito Ayatsuri is the manipulation board called te-ita (te: hands, ita: board). While European marionettes use sticks for manipulation, the te-ita is connected to a dozen strings and various parts of the puppet are about 60-80 cm high. This enables the puppeteer to generate puppet movements and emotions by manipulating these strings. It is said that several years of training is required for the puppeteer to walk puppets in a normal manner. The Edo Ito Ayatsuri Ningyo is listed as one of the ‘intangible folk-cultural properties for which records should be prepared’ (Tokyo Prefecture).
Puppet maker/Puppeteer: SHIOKAWA Kyoko
Shamisen: NAKAMURA Toshiko
Actress: TAKEUCHI Mizue
Coordinator: TOGARI Yasuko
Born in 1959 in Tokyo, SHIOKAWA graduated from the Department of Arts, Sugino Women’s University Junior College in 1979 and joined Youkiza, the traditional marionette Edo Ito Ayatsuri Ningyo troupe, from 1985 until 2006. As a member of the troupe, she was involved in various performances and the making of the string puppets. She became a freelance puppet maker and puppeteer before starting Team ITO in 2014. Shiokawa experiments with various types of manipulation techniques using puppets made from varied materials.
Born in 1940 in Tokyo, NAKAMURA Toshiko studied the Japanese traditional stringed instrument called shamisen with FUJIMOTO Michiko and KOHASHI Mikiko when she was 16. After graduating from the Department of Traditional Japanese Music, Tokyo University of the Arts in 1961, and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s (NHK) Japanese Traditional Music Course in 1962, she formed a group to perform traditional Japanese music.
TAKEUCHI started her career as an actress in 1999 with the Ninagawa Company (Dash), led by the late NINAGAWA Yukio. She has performed with the group called Chon-Muop since 2006. She has also participated in international collaborative performances such as Ueru-Seed directed by Chong Tze Chien (Finger Players, 2014-15) and Oiwa – the Ghost of Yotsuya (2021) in Singapore.
About Ombak Potehi
Potehi is a type of Hokkien glove puppet theatre that originated in Quanzhou, China. It was brought to Malaya by the Chinese in the early twentieth century. Penang was an important base for the potehi; there were about 10 troupes on the island in the post-war era. It was performed to honour deities at temple festivals and during the Hungry Ghost festival. The troupes commanded large audiences as a form of entertainment as well. Today there are 4 troupes left. Although the temples still hire groups to perform during the birthdays of the deities, there is hardly any audience.
Ombak Potehi was started by Tan Sooi Beng in 2015 to rejuvenate the potehi glove puppet theatre in Penang. She recruited a group of young people who learnt the art of puppet manipulation, narration, and music from the masters of the Beng Geok Hong Puppet Troupe of Penang. Led by Marcus Lim, the main puppeteer and scriptwriter, Ombak Potehi is known for its creative stories that use local multiethnic characters, costumes and languages but are based on the manipulation techniques, character role types and music of the traditional potehi. Through localisation and performances at festivals, Ombak Potehi has made the form and music accessible to people of different races, genders, ages and income levels in Penang.
Past Performances: The Story of Malek (2015), The Monkey Adventures: Ang Hai Li (2016) and Kisah Pulau Pinang-The Story of Penang I and II (2017, 2018, 2019), Puteri Hang Li Po (2022) at the George Town and Butterworth Fringe Festivals, Penang. The group has performed internationally at the Samphrang Festival, Bangkok (2015), the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre and Taisho University, Tokyo, Japan (2017), and Yunlin Puppet Festival, Taiwan (2018).
Director and Script Writer:
Marcus Lim Yun Hao
Music Director and drums:
Kang Su Kheng
Kang Su Syean
Ee Xin Zhu
Chooi Chin Ying (Gu Zheng, Dizi)
Wong Zhao Wen (Gongs, Cymbals)
P’ng Ling Ling (Zhong Ruan)
Yee Jing Xian (Erhu)
Keng Hwa Carving Studio
Alex Tan Tian Siang
Tham Win Leong
Goh Hun Meng
Coordinator, Program, Publicity:
Tan Sooi Beng
Inspirations from the Southeast — Penang, Malaysia
Date: 22 & 23 July 2023
Time: 2.00pm & 5.00pm
Venue: GSC Cinema, Gurney Plaza
Inspirations from the Southeast is a captivating documentary series featuring places in Southeast Asia, the region in the south of Taiwan. By blending the old with the new, the documentary captures the wisdom of Southeast Asia countries and their histories, providing insight into the significance of preserving one’s own culture. The current screening focuses on Penang, Malaysia, with an exposition on the city makers of George Town. As a UNESCO World Heritage city, the residents of George Town aim to make their city a living heritage. Whether it’s the stained walls of the street houses, the smells of various spices in the market, or the sound of the Songkok maker paddling the sewing machine, these essential historical and cultural elements of Penang are making the old city new. By portraying the stories of the living heritage, the documentary offers perspectives on everyday life and how city makers continuously shape and transform our experiences of tangible and intangible heritage within the city.