Yeung Fai and his puppets. Hand Story tells the story of the puppeteer's eventful life. (Photo Courtesy of National Theater & Concert Hall)
A promotional photo for Hand Story. (Photo Courtesy of National Theater & Concert Hall)
Yeung Fai, a Chinese artist who is the son of puppetry maestro Yang Sheng, has told the story of his life in his latest work, Hand Story. Yeung left China for Europe after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Hand Story depicts the life of a family torn apart by political turmoil. When his father died after being publicly shamed and tortured during the Cultural Revolution, he was only six years old. However, the image of his father bound and carried away has always been engraved in his memory.
Yeung left China with his brother Yang Feng, who taught him the family's puppetry art and stayed in South America until his brother was granted political asylum in the United States. He then went to Hong Kong and did whatever jobs he could find. Though poverty meant he almost gave up glove puppetry at one point, Yeung deals with this period of his life with a light touch and says he appreciated the help he received from many people during this difficult time.
Since then he has lived and traveled in Europe, performing his glove puppetry at the Theatre Jeune Public in Strasbourg, France for ten years. Yeung said he did not manage to learn French, English nor any other language well but did manage to incorporate some French charm and Spanish humor. He came up with the idea of Hand Story five years ago after seeing a documentary about his father in France.
In Hand Story, Yeung Fai takes the audience to several important moments in his life such as the tea shop where his grandfather would perform puppetry, the arrest of his father and his own endless journey after leaving his home country.
Yeung said he wants to hand down the art of glove puppetry to his students so that his father will live on through his art. Yeung is the only puppeteer in his family after his brother passed away in the United States in 2003. He remains hopeful of passing on the family tradition with his first child due to be born this July. "I hope he will be the sixth-generation puppeteer in our family," Yeung said.
Hand Story premiered in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January last year and was performed at the Avignon Off Theatre Festival in France in July. The puppet show will come to Taiwan this year and be staged at the National Theater and Concert Hall in Taipei from March 9-11.
Yeung Fai (Yang Hui) 楊輝
Yang Sheng 楊勝
Yang Fong 楊烽