Tradition of puppet theater
Tradition of puppet Theater in Thailand
Does Thailand have a tradition of puppet theater?
There are three different sorts of puppet theater in Thailand: two of them, nung taloong and nung yai, use leather cut-out figures, and the third, hun luang, uses real paper puppets.
Shadow-puppet theater (nmng t-long)
This first appeared in the province of Phattalung in the 4th century B.C. and is a popular form of shadow theater. A single puppet master, the Nai Nung, sits behind a lighted screen and works up to six puppets. They are cut-outs made from buffalo or cowhide (nmng) and represent characters who take part in scenes from everyday life. They are 50 centimeters tall and attached to a buffalo-horn handle. The puppet master provides their voices, changing his tone for each one. A small orchestra plays music to accompany and shape each scene.
Nung yai (ning yar)
This draws on the legends of the Ramakien for its material and uses much larger leather cut-outs that are fixed to wooden batons, each held by a puppeteer. The high cost of organizing a performance means that they are becoming increasingly rare. One of the leather figures can cost as much as 5,000 baht.
Hun Luang, or Royal Puppet Theatre
The Royal Puppet Theatre (hoon Iwang) employs paper puppets whose parts can all be made to move independently by manipulating the meter-long wires that are attached to them. The plots, characters, music, and costumes are the same as for khon theater. This ancestral art is becoming more and more rare since making the puppets requires very special technical skills that have been forgotten over the course of time. Today, the finest examples of these paper puppets are the pride and joy of collectors.
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