Sun, Chen-Chieh on Inspiring Children to Becoming Puppeteers

The Adventure of Puppets charts the voyage of two explorers as they venture into the unknown. After fifteen years of touring it comes to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Taiwan Season. Children’s Correspondent Tom Moyser spoke to the show’s director and original creator Sun, Chen-Chieh (AKA Jack Sun) about the magic of children’s laughter.

One of the things I most enjoy about Puppet Beings Theatre, whose exquisite Paper Play also ran at the Fringe last year, is the way the puppets are made live, in front of the young audience. Sun, Chen-Chieh sees it as a guiding principle of his work: “I think that children’s theatre must use the imagination and [children’s own] creativity. The first idea we use is object theatre. We can see the actor just use the tools to make the puppets.”

This is especially important to Sun because “we want the children to know that when they go back home they can make their own puppets and perform at home. Or in the classroom.”

Sun’s first idea for the show was the two characters, the carpenters played in the current production by Lu, Tsung-Hsien and Jia, Siang-Guo. “The two characters have different personalities. They both want an adventure, but one likes sailing and one likes flying. When I make their story and I combine this together.”

Sun has known his his original collaborator on The Adventure of Puppets, Peng, Guo-Cheng for a long time. Since the pair were at elementary school, in fact. He feels that, because they were childhood friends, they “really can play together” and know each other very well. This was the main challenge in developing the work for Lu and Jia to perform. “This knowing each other, this familiar interaction will be a new challenge for them. The performers’ interaction is the main work to practice.”

Despite this, The Adventure of Puppets exists most fully in the space between the actor and the audience. “We get the idea first,” says Sun, “and then the details are improvised by the performers. Some ideas from me and some ideas from the actors.”

The puppets themselves are largely assembled from found objects. I ask Sun whether the idea for each character comes first or whether the objects themselves inspire the choice of character. Once they have established the characters of the two carpenters, he explains, “The second thing is we just try to find a tool. After that, I see a mop and think ‘that can be a dog licking my face’. It’s just step by step.”

Since Sun and Peng devised it together fifteen years ago, The Adventure of Puppets has been on a journey to rival that of its main characters, appearing in Taiwan, India, Japan and now Edinburgh. Sun finds that the children watching the play are the same all over the world. “I think it’s the same because we don’t have a language. Children can understand what the actors are doing.”

So far in his twenty-year career, Sun has only made work for children. The most important thing for him, he says, is “the good time and laughter of the children.”

The one sentence pitch for the show? “Bring the imagination and go on an adventure with us.”

Taiwan Season: The Adventure of Puppets runs at Summerhall this Fringe. Follow the company on Twitter @oooptTaiwan and find their full Edinburgh listing:

Some translation help was provided during the interview from Yutsen Liu, who works with the company.