Wayang Kulit or South East Asian Puppet Shows

Discussion in 'Ramayana' started by garry420, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    The epic is so famous that some Chinese and Vietnamese opera troupes have adapted it into their repertoires by selecting Ramayana characters from the great number of traditional opera roles. In Myanmar, temple carvings, dances, marionettes, and elaborate appliqué hangings portray scenes from the story.

    In wayang kulit, the puppeteer (dalang) manipulates leather figures so that their shadows dance across a white screen. Performances, which typically begin in the late evening and end at sunrise are built around Indian epics Ramayan and Mahabharat. Various types of puppets, court and popular dance dramas, and temple murals and carvings are common throughout Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is common to find Ramayana episodes depicted next to Buddhist image stories in temples, as at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. Of all the performing arts, however, nothing else can match the complete spectacle of the Cambodian nang sbek thom and related Thai nang yai. To the accompaniment of gongs, drums, and wind instruments, dozens of large figures cut from leather are animated by many dancers in the front and back of a huge screen lit by fire (even by a large cremation pyre) or electric lights. This clearly shows the close connections between dance and puppetry, for silhouettes of the performers are visible throughout the performance. From the royal courts evolved lengthy dramas with elaborately dressed dancers wearing fantastic masks. Even village groups adapted the masked dance style.

    Malay puppeteers perform old and new episodes from the epic with small leather figures that have only one moveable arm. Similar all night puppet plays with stylized figures that have two articulated arms take place in Java, in addition to dance dramas as refined courtly ceremony and popular operatic style. Ancient Javanese temple carvings visually narrate the story in long series of bas-reliefs. The Balinese paint and carve popular scenes and characters from Ramayana for their temples and houses, as well as restaurants and hotels. During religious ceremonies, the Balinese recite the story in poetry, or perform episodes in masked dance dramas and leather puppet plays with shadows cast by the flickering flame of an oil lamp. Mysterious illnesses can be cured by puppet performances in which ogres are destroyed, since the Balinese traditionally believe that evil spirits are responsible for health problem.

    The Natya Shastra, written before the Christian era and attributed to a Hindu sage named Bharata Muni, is the world’s oldest, most complete manual for all aspects of performance. It details the requirements for theater architecture, costumes, actor training and performance, music, playwriting, and the emotional exchange that takes place between the audience and the actors. The book relates how the Hindu god Brahma created drama (natya) to entertain and to educate.

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