Four young Bunraku masters are set to thrill audiences for the first time in Penang with their rendition of “The Furious Love of a Greengrocer’s Daughter”, one of 160 plays written during the Edo period (1603-1868) that remain in the national repertory.
Bunraku is a centuries-old art form in which puppeteers – dressed in black and visible to spectators – manipulate large puppets to the accompaniment of sung narratives and traditional instrumentals. In 2003, UNESCO recognised it as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage, citing the unique nature of Japan’s indigenous puppet theatre, and praised the realism with which it portrays human emotions.
The Bunraku Puppet Show is part of the inaugural Butterworth Fringe Festival, a George Town Festival spin-off event held on the mainland.
Date: 15 & 16 August, 2015
Demonstration: 6.10 p.m.–6.40 p.m.
Performance: 6.40 p.m.–7.10 p.m.
Venue: Jalan Jeti Lama, Butterworth
Directions to the venue
1. Take a ferry (from George Town to Butterworth)
Price: RM1.20 (Adult), RM0.60 (Children)
Duration of Travel: 15 minutes (3 km)
Schedule: Every 20 minutes
05.40am until 01.00am (From George Town to Butterworth)
05.20am until 00.40am (From Butterworth to George Town)
* After 10 p.m., one departure every 40 minutes.
Boarding place: Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal (George Town Jetty)
After disembarking, either:
1. Take a taxi to Jalan Jeti Lama (7 minutes)
2. Take the Butterworth Fringe Festival shuttle service that starts from 2 p.m. onwards (look out for a Volkwagen Kombi!)
3. Walk straight up north along Jalan Pantai (2km)
2. Take a taxi
If you want to use the Penang Bridge, or if you are coming from the Penang International Airport, take a taxi! The journey will take about 45 minutes from George Town and 1 hour from the airport.
For more information, visit the official webpage or contact the George Town Festival Secretariat at 04 261 6308.
What is Bunraku?
Ranking with Noh and Kabuki as one of Japan’s foremost stage arts, the Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theatre is a blend of sung narrative, instrumental accompaniment and puppet drama. This theatrical form emerged during the early Edo period (ca. 1600) when puppetry was coupled with Johruri, a popular fifteenth-century narrative genre.
The plots related in this new form of puppet theatre are derived from two principal sources: historical plays set in feudal times (Jidaimono) and contemporary dramas exploring the conflict between affairs of the heart and social obligation (Sewamono). Approximately 160 works out of the 700 plays written during the Edo period have remained in today’s repertory. Nowadays, it attracts numerous young performers, and the aesthetic qualities and dramatic content of the plays continue to appeal to modern audiences.
The Watch Tower scene from “The Furious Love of a Greengrocer’s Daughter”
Oshichi, a greengrocer’s daughter, is upset after she found a sword lost by her lover Kichisaburo. The price for having made such a mistake is none other than seppuku. Oshichi wishes to inform him immediately but is unable to exit the city centre as all gates are closed and will only be reopened come daybreak. However, fire alarms are an exception to this rule. A desperate Oshichi spots a watch tower in the distance and proceeds to ring the bell, knowing all too well that sounding a false alarm is a serious crime.