Inspiring Conversations

Frankie Malachi, Hantu Puppet Creator


  • SumoMe

There are only 4 more days for the family production, H is for Hantu! The musical comedy is about Singapore’s last existing kampung, which, is about to be wiped out to make way for development, but not all the residents are willing to give up without a fight, including a young malay boy and his supernatural friends, who just happen to be ghosts!

Some of H is for Hantu’s ghost cast are brought to life with puppets created by one of Singapore’s pioneer professional puppeteers, Frankie Malachi. We’re pretty sure you’ve seen his creations in action. Frankie’s giant puppets were featured in the Opening Ceremony of the first-ever Singapore Youth Olympics Games 2010 and Singapore’s National Day Parade 2009. He was also recently awarded 2 Gold Awards at the Second International Marionette Festival 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

We managed to squeeze our way into his busy schedule to find out more about the master and the latest show he’s working on!

Mala-what?

Not very common in Singapore to be sure, but Frankie’s last name, Malachi, is pronounced as Mair-ler-kai.

How did you get involved in puppetry?

“I am a great fan of the muppets and grew up watching them. It’s from knowing and studying about Jim Henson that became a turning point in my life”

His other puppetry heroes include Frank Oz and marionette master Phillip Huber of ‘Being John Malkovich’ fame. Frankie is considered a pioneer in the use of giant puppets, marionette puppetry, and black-light puppetry in Singapore.

How many puppets do you have and where do you get your inspiration for puppet design from?

“I have more than 300 puppets and have made at least 1000 or more! There are quite a number of ways I draw inspiration, but it’s mostly from daily life: through music, a picture or even just doodling.”

After working with Jonathan (STAGES) a couple of times before (Chestnuts, H is for Hantu), has it gotten easier to bring to life the concepts that he has for his shows?

“It’s always a challenge because every puppet character is different and the mechanics involved for that particular puppet character is varied in its function.”

Which is your favourite puppet in H is for Hantu?

“Galah is definitely the top favourite.”

Was there a difficult scene in this run of H is for Hantu for you?

“The two largest puppets, which are Galah and the Banana tree spirit, are the difficult ones because you have to bring the puppets in, position them on set and deal with the mechanics in the dark in a very short time frame. The backstage area is very small and cluttered with other props, so navigating them through the obstacle course in the darkness is quite a skill.

Have you had any Hantu experiences of your own?

Thank God, I never had that opportunity!

Catch Frankie’s puppets in action in H is for Hantu! It runs until April 3 at Gallery Theatre, National Museum. Showtimes are at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets at $35 from Sistic.

Frankie Malachi is the founder and creative director of Mascots and Puppets Specialists, a company that produces and choreographs puppets for television, theatre, media, government bodies, and many other institutions. To find out more, head on over to FrankieMalachi.com

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