Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Getting a hand on entertainment

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

The story of Taiwan's Robin Hood, Liao Tien-ting, in a production for puppets.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TTT PUPPET CENTER

Beginning this weekend and running through the Lunar New Year, TTT Puppet Center (大稻埕偶戲館) will take audiences into the Year of the Sheep with a story that is anything but sheepish, The Honorable Thief Liao Tianding (義賊廖添丁).

A real-life Robin Hood, Liao lived in the same neighborhood from which TTT Puppet Center gets its name, Tataocheng (大稻埕). He lived at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. He stole from the area's rich and gave to the poor.

"That's where reality ends," said Robin Ruizendaal, who heads TTT Puppet Center and wrote and directed the production. "The rest of the tale is pure fiction." The Liao of the story is a reclusive hero whose face is badly scarred. Though he dares not approach her, he is in love with a beautiful young girl whose mother has been imprisoned for peddling her wares on the streets of Tataocheng. Desperate to pay the rent, the young girl goes to the temple to pray for good fortune. A cunning Liao hears the girl's prayer and, disguising himself as the temple god, gives the girl some money. It's not enough, however, and her landlord, a wealthy textile merchant, demands her hand in marriage.

"If she marries him," Ruizendaal explains, "the house she lives in would be hers and the merchant could pay her mother's way out of prison." The deal is done and it looks as though the newlyweds will live a peaceful life until the Japanese policemen pursuing Liao accidentally kill the wealthy merchant. They conspire to pin the blame on the fugitive Liao, ensuring that he will never have the chance to show the girl how much he loves her.

While it may not have the happiest of endings, Liao's fate in the story is far better than it was in reality. The real Liao was caught by the police and executed.

Bringing the puppets to life is one of Taiwan's foremost puppeteers, 72-year-old Chen Hsi-huang (陳錫煌), who last worked with TTT Puppet Center on their production of Marco Polo. Traditional opera actress Chiu Hsiu-hui (邱秋惠) is the voice of the forlorn girl. A lovely composition of Taiwanese folk music is provided by Miles Odonnol.

The Honorable Thief Liao Tianding will be performed tomorrow and Sunday at 3pm and every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm through the Lunar New Year holiday.

This story has been viewed 3915 times.
TOP top