Liang Dongxing and his puppets. [Photo/gdzjdaily.com.cn]
The most different puppet show is the puppet solo as the show must be completed by one person only. It requires the performer to be a master of puppet manipulation and eloquence. No one can attain this expertise except by devoted practice. “I practiced when having lunch, cooking and even dreaming,” said Liang Dongxing, who stood out as one of the best puppeteers years later in this way. “In the beginning, I performed at daytime while my grandfather performed at night.” He started performing independently at the age of 21.
Gaozhou puppet show is featured by impromptu, so performers could vary in ways of acting, tone and lines even based on the same script. Liang’s list of performance mainly contains historical novels, legends, legal cases and myths with the theme of upholding justice. Sui and Tang Heroes, Generals of the Yang Family, and The Legend of Yue Fei are his masterpieces.
As a puppeteer, Liang witnessed the rise and decline of Gaozhou puppet show in the last five decades. Gaozhou puppet show saw its heyday between the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, there were more than 2,000 puppet troupes which performed more than 10,000 shows each year. Gaozhou puppet troupes were allegedly the group of Cantonese art troupe that enjoy the largest number of operas.
However, number of audiences dropped sharply in the 1990s as more and more people watched TV instead. Artists only put on puppet shows for four or five months in one year during the tough times. Many skilled puppeteers had to find other jobs, but Liang stuck to his profession. He became proficient in skills over time and aroused attention of international art universe.