Finger on the pulse

Published on 2 October 2014

Profile: The Finger Players

Once the humble children’s puppetry division of a larger company, The Finger Players has become an internationally acclaimed, award-winning theatre titan making waves in many genres… and all before its 16th birthday!
BY jo tan

Looking at some of its shows dealing with displacement, dismemberment, reincarnation and revolutions,  it’s hard to believe The Finger Players (TFP) began in 1996 as the children’s division of The Theatre Practice, performing Chinese hand puppetry to tots. Fifteen years after breaking away in 1999, TFP is now one of Singapore’s leading theatre companies, accumulating accolades with its repertoire of internationally-performed shows for adults and children. This includes puppet-free plays such as the multi-award-winning monologue Roots, being restaged this month to celebrate the group’s 15th anniversary.

“Puppetry, transfering emotions onto inanimate objects, is always in our DNA,” says Company Director Chong Tze Chien. “Even in shows without puppets, we think, how do we create magic with set, props, sound, lights, manipulating them so they come alive? For example in Roots, Resident Director Oliver Chong manipulates a carpet of rice to create different mises-en-scene as he tells the story. This philosophy translates to a distinct sensitivity you see onstage, and why our apprentices learn puppetry first.”

Yes, other than artforms from the past, TFP has its eye on the future with its year-old apprenticeship programme, plus other plans. We want to groom a new generation of Singapore collaborators, create new Singapore content together… we even plan a puppet musical in future. Also, we want to groom Singapore classics by restaging past works every year, something you enjoy that you can still take your children to ten years later.”

Despite big dreams, TFP won’t forget its little beginnings. “We’re more financially stable, but everyone at TFP still does everything: make coffee, sweep the floor. No matter how successful we are, rhis won’t change: Everyone is an equal collaborator in creating theatre.”

Roots is now playing at the Drama Centre Black Box.

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