For more than 20 years, puppet master Frankie Yeo has performed with his hand puppets and animated marionettes at children's parties, company events and theatre productions.
Calling them his "babies", the 57-year-old crafted many of these dolls by hand, working on some for up to two years.
Now, however, it is time to say goodbye.
Earlier this month, the Singaporean, whose stage name is Frankie Malachi, made the difficult decision to sell some of his puppets to pay his bills.
For months now, live performances have been cancelled to help curb the spread of Covid-19, hitting many in the arts community hard.
On the heartbreaking decision, the creative director of home-grown company Mascots and Puppets Specialists says: "I have no choice. The pandemic is dragging on much longer than I expected and I do not know when I will be able to next put on a puppet show."
When Covid-19 hit, he thought it would come and go quickly like the severe acute respiratory syndrome. "But it has been some time and there are still no events in sight. I will miss my beloved babies, but selling them is the only way I can think of to keep the company afloat."
His costs include the five-figure monthly rental of his 3,300 sq ft warehouse space in MacPherson Industrial Complex, where he has been operating since 2008. There are also the salaries of his three employees, which he was forced to cut by 30 per cent since this month.
Indeed, the last few months have been filled with one difficult decision after another.
He has to furlough one staff member from next month. "I felt really bad because he had been saving up every dollar for his upcoming wedding. Never have I sacked or laid off anybody in my life."
Mr Yeo himself has not drawn an income since April, and neither has his wife, the business' co-owner.
Handmade puppets for sale
He is always blue, just like the colour of his fur. Made in June, this hand puppet is cynicism incarnate, seeing a problem in every solution. Although he is highly critical of everything around him, his weird way of looking at the world strangely makes sense at times.
This skilled cabaret performer is sexy and she knows it. Inspired by the late Brazilian samba singer-actress Carmen Miranda, this dancing marionette can tantalise her audience, swishing her skirt and doing splits and high kicks. With her big, blinking eyes, the flirtatious character has been a regular at Mr Yeo's shows since 2000.
A veteran at Mr Yeo's shows, this gullible hand puppet is always making friends. Dressed in Middle Eastern-style garb, she sings a song titled The Camel's Nose, about a camel seeking warmth in her tent on a frosty desert night. She lets the camel in, but, bit by bit, finds herself pushed out of her tent and into the cold. So much for being kind.
FACE-CHANGING PUPPET, $2,300
Inspired by the magical sub-genre of face-changing in Chinese opera, this mysterious character can whip out seven colourful faces in one performance. His elaborate outfit features real pheasant feathers and he is held up by high-tension fishing lines. Created in 2017, he has not made his debut, although the user will have to master his face-changing secrets before taking the stage.
BUNNY PUPPET, $400
A magician pulls a bunny out of a hat, but why can't it be the other way around? So asks this curious, questioning rabbit puppet, which has no name. Made in June from foam and velvet, it is controlled by a hand at the back of its neck. Its posable ears allow it a wide range of emotions – from shyness to timidity to wide-eyed excitement.
Government assistance has helped, he acknowledges. "But with no income coming in, things are still very difficult. Apart from cutting costs, there is very little we can do except hope things get better."
For puppeteers like himself, performing online shows is not viable, he says. "Videos just cannot capture the spontaneity and interaction of live performances."
Going online would also mean competing with numerous entertainment options – from Netflix to YouTube.
"Online shows are not commercially sound," he adds. "It is very hard to get netizens to pay for a show streamed online."
What if the pandemic drags on?
"I don't want to think of that," says Mr Yeo, who has heard of artists being forced to move out of their premises. "Thankfully, we have not reached that stage yet. Read More – Source