Meet the puppet designers of Karung Guni Boy
The heart-warming book Karung Guni Boy by Singapore writer Lorraine Tan and illustrator Eric Wong is brought to life with puppets in a theatrical production at the Esplanade. (Photo: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay)

Meet the puppet designers of Karung Guni Boy

They might be made of recycled materials, but don’t underestimate the puppets starring in the Esplanade’s theatrical production Karung Guni Boy.

Staged at the Esplanade Theatre Studio until 23 May, the show is playwright Jean Tay’s theatrical adaption of the charming picture book Karung Guni Boy by Lorraine Tan and Eric Wong. The show is directed by theatre veteran Tan Beng Tian and it tells the story of Ming, a young inventor who collects old items from his neighbours to build his ambitious inventions.

The puppet show will see storytellers and puppeteers Marc Valentine Chia and Suhaili Safari skilfully breathe life into puppets made of recycled materials such as used water bottles, soap bottles, and cardboard boxes. The decision to work with used objects goes beyond staying true to the premise of the book, says Suhaili. “When puppets are created using everyday materials, children are able to visualise the possibility of creating different worlds using materials familiar to them.”

Turning recycled materials into puppets that convey emotion, however, is no child’s play. It demands a deep understanding of how human bodies respond physically in different situations, and the ability to creatively translate that into the way a puppet moves. “The process requires precise mapping of movements, especially when the puppets cannot vary their facial expressions,” says Chia.

The puppets were painstakingly crafted over a month by prop designer Wabi Metta. To think out of the box, she put herself in the protagonist’s shoes and collected used items around her house to make the puppets. She also indulged unabashedly in make-believe play while designing the puppets, to channel child-like whimsy and fun in her creations.

She says: “Make-believe play is one of the ways children learn to understand the world and people around them. Through this playful production, I hope they will take home with them messages of empathy and caring for our environment.”

Learn more about Karung Guni Boy here.

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