Myanmar Traditional Marionette

Puppets played an important role in the royal courts by serving as messengers of the king, conveying information that might have had a live person killed on the spot. They were used to teach humans how to dance by copying the movements of a puppet manipulated by a master. In addition, they educated the people through morality tales and historical plays. They also carried news from the capital city to remote towns and villages, thus becoming a form of media.

The minimum 28 puppets in an ensemble are: the Hermit, King of the Celestials, Good Celestial Being, King, the four Ministers, Prince, Princess, two Prince Regents (white face and red face), two Jesters, Spirit Medium, Handmaiden, Page Boy, Brahmin Astrologer, Forest dwelling Alchemist with magical powers, Palace Ogre, Jungle Ogre, Giant Bird, Magical Serpent, Horse, Monkey, Tiger and Elephant.

Optional puppets that may perform are: Old Man, Old Woman, Parrot or Stork, White Elephant, Queen, Witch or Villainess, Hunter or Villain and Crocodile.

Puppet shows usually take place at pagoda festivals, which are like country fairs. The performances begin at about 8pm and end at dawn the next day.

It’s not design for amusement. It’s not even light entertainment. It’s the real thing a serious art, was presenting full-length dramas to adult audiences. It was a whole-night’s affair with beginning, middle and end so that the marionettes are no longer toys or dolls but serious substitutes for human players. The art of manipulating the marionettes with strings is a serious study since the aim is to make the figures of wood as life-like as possible.

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