design, performance Yeung Faï
direction Eric Domenicone
puppet booth design Michel Klien
puppet design Yeung Faï
light Marc Laperrouze
production Manege Maubeuge – Scene Nationale
co-production Perth International Arts Festival – Australie
lenght 50 minutes
The tiger devours the affable monk, students clash in a dramatic spear and sword fight, plates twirl without ever smashing, couples fall in and out of love… Chinese puppets perform a series of breath-taking scenes and plunge us into a world where the dazzling dexterity of the puppeteer blends with lightness and reverie.
Yeung Faï, the last member of a puppeteer dynasty (5 generations and several centuries of practice), is unrelenting in the pursuit of his art and has become a celebrated and unchallenged master of Chinese glove puppets, a virtuoso able to express most accurately the state of mind, temper and feelings of the characters he handles.
In his luggage scattered on a makeshift stage, he carries along a legacy of puppets and an expertise that is both obsolete and unconventional. If the man seems lost in our contemporary world, the maestro is revealed when the suitcases open and spread their contents of improbable stories to the modern eye.
An all-around and multifaceted performance, these “puppet scenes” are designed for all audiences.
The itinerant puppeteer offers what history has bequeathed him: a striking lesson of humour and humanity.
Laure Adler, a conversation with Yeung Faï
Representing the fifth generation of a family of puppeteers, he was trained to puppetry by his father and has become a master of this art form. The passionate artist produces performances worldwide, filled with poetry, humour and beauty, adding sometimes a political slant about China, his native country, but always capturing young as well as adult audiences.
Yeung Faï in Teahouse.
In Yeung Faï’s family, everyone practices the art of puppetry and passes it down to the next generation. «I’m number 5, he explains. I’ve never really had a choice. It was decided I’d be the heir. I had a certain artistic sense». As a young child, he really enjoyed shows. «Even if they ended very late, I stayed up». At the age of six, he designed his first puppet, which he sculpted in wood. When he was 14, he started self-producing his shows. «It was a full-time job for me».
From this childhood, he has also kept painful memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. «It was very difficult at the time. We almost died of hunger. Sometimes I think about this and wonder how I survived. Thinking about it makes us cry». Yeung Faï explains that the Cultural Revolution was tragic for mankind and its consequences are still perceptible nowadays: «It wiped out culture. Society had been dehumanized. In China, people are still afraid to talk about it. But I will never forget. I suffered too much and still suffer today». His father was arrested and his family driven out of their home. They found shelter in a shack, and were forced to scavenge in the streets. «I was only 7 years-old». Some people helped him survive. «After the Cultural Revolution, I decided to leave China».
Today, he’s happy. Happy to live on his art. What matters to Yeung Faï is to introduce very different people to puppetry, rather than people from a specific line of descent only. «Culture belongs to the whole of mankind, not to a single person. It should therefore never be lost. I try to teach people from all backgrounds, from all countries». He adds: «The Chinese government is afraid of any creative art form, afraid of creation, of art. Because as soon as you have freedom, you start thinking, having opinions, and this is a consistent trend in all art forms».
He finds inspiration in other art forms, but he’s always seeking new ideas:
«Traditionally, the arts influence one another, particularly puppetry. Originally, it was born in teahouses and was a way to tell stories; then music was added, and then it grew into an art form in its own right…».
Born in China in 1964, Yeung Faï represents the fifth generation of a great family of Chinese puppeteers. Puppetry is one of the most ancient traditional folk arts in China. Yeung Faï was trained from the early age of four by his father, a Chinese master puppeteer who was a victim of the Cultural Revolution. This left indelible marks on the son’s art, who today lives in France and unrelentingly pursues it, now an unchallenged master of puppet handling and making. He has toured with his solo show entitled Scenes of the Beijing Opera in major puppet international festivals for about 20 years, in Asia, North America, South America and Europe. He has contributed to several big screen and TV films and was a teacher at the Puppetry School of Zhangzhou.
From 2001 to 2010, Yeung Faï repeatedly worked in France with the Théâtre Jeune Public, CDN Strasbourg and director Grégoire Callies, while performing his solo show Scenes of the Beijing Opera in France and abroad.
In 2004, he performed in Snow in the middle of summer by Guân Hanging, a beautiful Chinese poem adapted by Grégoire Callies, handling 20 or so puppets whose making he supervised. In 2005, he designed with a whole team the glove and Bunraku puppets of Don Quixote.
From 2006 to 2010, he designed the puppets he handled in the shows Odyssey 1 and Odyssey 2, directed by Grégoire Callies, which he performed in France, Canada, Spain and other countries.
In 2011 he created at Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne the autobiographic show Hand Stories, which he has performed more than 300 times, in Switzerland, France, Brazil, the US, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Germany, Hungary, Martinique, Italy, the Reunion, Spain, and so on.
In 2013 he created at Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne a docu-drama, Blue Jeans, inspired by the work conditions of textile workers in Asia. More than 70 performances were held, notably in Switzerland, France and Taiwan.
In May 2015, he created, as part of the Passages Festival in Metz, Teahouse, directed by Grégoire Callies. It was performed at The Puppet Theatre in Paris, at the Mondial Festival in Charleville-Mézières (France), in Spain, Germany, etc.
On April 8th, 2016, in Taipei, he created and directed a show produced by the National Theatre and Concert Hall of Taipei in Taiwan, Lifelines, and performed in it, together with two Taiwanese puppeteers. The show was performed in Taipei, Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Maubeuge (France), Erlangen (Germany)…
In November 2017, he will be creating a new solo show, produced by the Scène nationale le Manège, in Maubeuge, France.
Aside from his directing and puppetry activities, Yeung Faï regularly teaches puppet handling training courses, notably at TJP Strasbourg, ESNAM in Charleville-Mézières (he contributed to the show Frontières with the seniors of the school), the Atrium in Fort-de-France, the Puppet Theatre in Paris, etc.
In 2018, he will be hosted as a resident artist by the Perth International Festival in Australia.
He will teach chinese glove puppets in the Central_Academy_of_Drama in Beijin from September till December 2018.