Mammoth puppet show for all ages

China's biggest puppet show "The Last Warrior Elephant" finally finishes its five-year march from conception to completion and is to be staged in Shanghai on May 15.
Ti Gong

China’s biggest puppet show “The Last Warrior Elephant” finally finishes its five-year march from conception to completion when the 3.8-meter-tall elephant takes the battlefield, trumpeting vehemently.

The puppet show is to be staged in Shanghai for the 12th China Art Festival on May 15.

Adapted from Shen Shixi’s novel of the same name, it shows how humans and elephants supported each other during the war.

The biggest applause must go to the three puppet elephants. The 3.8-meter effigies — the same size as real-life Asian elephants — are operated by three puppeteers working together. They can blink their eyes, move back and forth on the stage and flap the huge ears. Even the texture of their skin and musculature seem real under the stage lighting.

“It took more than 10 months to create the elephants. The version we see now on the stage is the fifth generation, with better structure, richer details and lighter material, which is much easier for our puppeteers to operate,” said Feng Xiaowei, director of the stage design and production center of the Shanghai Puppet Theater.

Intending to tell a Chinese story with a universal message, the creative team is made up of domestic and overseas theater professionals who spent weeks poring over photos and videos of elephants and studying their anatomy and movements. On an adventure in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, they observed the animals in their natural habitat.

There is another baby elephant performed by an actor who hides in the puppet to dance for 20 minutes with his hands and feet on the ground.

“The show combines both traditional puppetry and modern scenography,” said the producer Ma Chencheng. “It is not so much a children’s drama, but a piece of theater which caters to audiences of all ages.”

Date: May 15, 2pm, 7:30pm

Tickets: 60-380 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Majestic Theater

Address: 66 Jiangning Rd

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