BTS Heroes: A Wicked Tale – No Strings Attached with Master Puppeteer Frankie Malachi

Frankie Malachi with a “Tree Monster”.

Maverick Singaporean film director, Tzang Merwyn Tong, produced a thrilling variation of the age-old fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood.

The movie was titled A Wicked Tale and follows the story of a young woman (red riding hood) who is influenced by the forces of carnal temptation (the wolf), attempting to destroy her sweet innocence.

A Wicked Tale premiered at the 34th Rotterdam International Film Festival and won a Gold Remi Award in the 2005 WorldFest in Houston USA.

Due to its entrancing visuals and unorthodox storytelling style, the piece soared in status to achieve a cult following.

Veteran puppeteer Frankie Malachi has been in the line of puppetry for decades. He built the marionettes on set and controlled them, based on the vision of the then-upcoming director.

In this edition of Premise TV original series, BTS Heroes, we caught up with one man who arguably imbued life into the magic witnessed on the set of the psychological thriller. He shares his experience on the production, his artistic views on puppetry and how his career sprung from a chance encounter.


(1) How was it like working on the set of A Wicked Tale?

FM: It was an interesting and challenging task as the director (Tzang) was very particular about the minute details of props and costumes etc. He also knew what he wanted and how he wished to shoot each scene.

Everything is exactly as it should be in a movie and I am glad it was well thought out. The people involved were very passionate about bringing out the script from page to stage and were very helpful during production.


(2) What was your initial reaction when you realised your works are going to be feature on an independent film.

FM: I was ecstatic when I heard about it as I have never done independent film before and did not know what to expect. I was glad that I was given the opportunity.

The young director was very shy and almost intimidated by this long curly-haired, rockstar-looking puppeteer. Both of us were in the office of a doctor friend, who introduced us. When told about the project, I was quite eager to get it going!


(3) Could you tell us more about the puppets and how did you decide on their design?

FM: When I was briefed by the director on what was involved and what he needed the puppets to do, I had no clue how the actress looked like but at least I knew what the puppet needs to do.

So, I quickly sculpted whatever image I had in my mind at the time and made the specific puppet in about two weeks. After costuming it and delivering it on set, I was pleasantly surprised when the director wrote to me that he was super pleased because it resembled the actress who was playing that part!

There was also a wolf marionette involved and I made within a week and again it was one of those happy incidents where the wolf ended up looking very phallic in shape, which again fitted in very nicely with the subject of the film.


(4) What is the greatest challenge of being a puppeteer?

A motley crew of Frankie’s creations.

FM: The greatest challenge is bringing life to an inanimate object and giving it the soul and intellect to communicate a thought or message. Also, having it breathe and responding or reacting to those around and the things that are happening around it, really takes a certain skill set. Basically, understanding movement and having a flair for subtle movements for the puppet to emote.


(5) How did you get started in the field of puppetry?

SEA Games cavalcade displaying the works of Frankie.

FM: Never in my life would I dream of being a puppeteer! I also wanted to be a magician and I loved special effects in the movies and creating prosthetic for special effects make up. Growing up watching Jim Henson was a great source of inspiration for an impressionable young man in the 80s.

Performing a puppet routine out of necessity for a birthday boy snowballed into a career, which I look back and smile with satisfaction and gratitude. Puppetry had found me.


(6) What are some of the common misconceptions that people might have of puppeteers?

The puppeteer proves that puppets are not all dark and scary.

FM: Jiggling around with a doll is not puppetry. It is an ancient art form dating back to the Stone Age, where they discovered shadows cast on the cave walls from fire.

It really involves a lot of the fine arts blended into one amazing medium. There is sculpting, mold- making, costuming, make up, hair, props-making, theatrics etc…

So, it is not just adults playing with dolls and no, puppets are not evil and will not kill you in the middle of the night! If not, I would not have been around to tell my story.


(7) Finally, do you have any advice for someone who is interested in the puppetry field?

Frankie with a cat puppet.

FM: Like any art form, it needs to be handled and moved through the spirit of play and involves realising the possibility of expressing and communicating though an inanimate object. One must learn to let go of oneself and allow the puppet to have the limelight. So, if one wants to learn puppetry, one must immerse themselves in the spirit of play.


Frankie is an international performer and the founder and creative director of Mascots and Puppets Specialists, a company specialised in puppetry for media outlets, events for government bodies and other organisations. He continues to spread the classic art of puppetry in keeping the magic alive for people of all ages.

Catch A Wicked Tale exclusively on Premise TV.


(Credits: images from

Author: Laurenzo Jude


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