Katong Shopping Centre
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Strings Attached
Just when you think Katong - Singapore's eclectic, vibrant neighborhood - can't get any more colorful, puppets burst upon the scene. Although it's the poor man's Chinese opera - wooden figurines on strings are much less high maintenance than popular divas, and streetside stages can be set up in any nook - many traditional Chinese puppet shows follow the same scripts and librettos of imperial court intrigues, forbidden love triangles, family comedy and morality tales. On this occasion, evening doublebills over a week led up to the Heavenly God's birthday on the eighth day of the new lunar year. It's a vanishing art. What used to be al fresco entertainment for the community masses and a viable (though not highly respected) profession is now a niche hobby for enthusiasts and clan associations. And that's why, no matter that Singapore has one of the world's highest concentrations of movie-goers, is a regular stop for touring Broadway and West End shows, and hosts that nightly Marina Bay Sands laser extravaganza, you always stop when you see a puppet show on the street. The marionettes are crafted by hand and dressed so resplendently their outfits might have been Abba costumes in another lifetime. Go around the corner and peek backstage to watch performers croon into hanging mics. There are no strings attached between these street puppet shows and the world we live in today or the way we live now, but that tickling in your chest might just be your heartstrings stirring.
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