Shadow puppet (Thai: Nang Talung) was one form of public entertainment in the south of Thailand. It is still very popular at village festivals, temple fairs and celebrations such as marriages, etc. Its characters are made from intricately cut – out and articulated shapes of leather.
They are delicately coloured, but this does not show during a performance as the puppets appear only in shadow against a white sheet, with light shining through from behind. They are manipulated with rods control movements of the arms.
Performances may have a religious theme or be an episode from the Ramayana epic which contains dozens of individual stories. They may also be specially written to include up-to-the minute reflections, songs, and poems about local events and matters of current interest in the district or country.
There are hundreds of different characters each with a distinctive silhouette, but the show will almost always include a clown, funny old man, scatter – brained old woman or rather stupid yokel, who are all great favorites with the fun – loving audiences.
Nakhon Si Thammarat province has one of the town’s most popular shadow puppeteers named Mr. Suchart Sapsin. Like all good Nang Talung puppet masters, he is a man of many talents. He is not only expert in the craft of making the puppets but is also an award – winning writer and poet. He is narrator, speaking or singing all the parts using different voices, and is a superb mimic. And he does all this as he manipulates the characters from behind the illuminated screen. Suchat is one of the National artists.