ST readers help puppet master's 'babies' find new home

SINGAPORE – Two weeks ago, The Sunday Times reported on a difficult decision that puppet master Frankie Yeo made – to sell his beloved puppets to pay his mounting bills.

Since then, several ST readers have come forward to buy his “babies” and give them a new home.

Mr Yeo, whose stage name is Frankie Malachi, has been performing with puppets and marionettes for more than 20 years. But with live performances cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic, the children’s parties and company events he once performed at were no more.

Since the article’s publication, the 57-year-old has sold seven more puppets, mostly costing $400 each.

They include four yellow bunny puppets, two blue hand puppets, and a juggling blue bear marionette.

Mr Yeo also received many phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook messages – from friends, clients and strangers alike – expressing concern for him.

The Singaporean says: “I feel very heartened and touched by the support readers have shown me and my craft.

“I know those who bought my puppets likely did not have the need for them – they probably just wanted to support me.”

Even those who did not make a purchase encouraged him not to feel disheartened during these difficult times. “To me, this means a lot.”

One buyer was an old friend, Mr William Wong, 37, who runs Magic Castle Singapore, a shop at Orchard Plaza selling magic tricks, props and accessories. He bought a bunny puppet for $400 and intends to display it in his shopfront.

He says: “I have heard of Frankie and his puppets since I was in secondary school, way before we became friends. Puppetry is a lost art and there aren’t many people doing it in Singapore.

“I wanted to support him and hope he can continue pursuing his craft.”

ST reader Mark Seow, 37, bought the juggling blue bear marionette, which he now displays at home.

Although the bank employee has never had any experience handling puppets, he was fascinated by them after seeing a few movies from the Puppet Master film franchise in the 1990s.

He says: “Reading about Frankie reignited an old interest. And Frankie’s puppets are very well- made and life-like. To me, they are more like musical instruments than toys.”

He allows his son Silas, five, and daughter Celine, two, to play with the puppet, under supervision, of course. In his free time, he, too, practises making it move and dance.

“It is not easy making the bear juggle. It looks effortless during a show, but it is hard when you are the one pulling the strings.”

Mr Yeo, who is the creative director of home-grown company Mascots and Puppets Specialists, is still selling his puppets.

He says: “Apart from the readers’ reactions, I was also very encouraged when I read that some live performances might be allowed soon. I hope at least some small-scale shows can resume soon, as I think it will really benefit people in the arts community.”

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