MONKEY is based on
one of the great quest stories, a 16th century Chinese epic
called Xi Yu Chi ( Journey to the West ) by Wu Ch'eng En.
Monkey is probably most familiar to western audiences from
a Japanese television series from the late 1970's called 'Monkey
Magic'. These tales describe demons and monsters that threaten
Tripitaka, a Buddhist monk, on a journey to India to find
Monkey has a long history in the Far East. The
first picture book was printed in 1806. Several film and television
versions have appeared in Japan - a film directed by Kishiro
Yamamoto in 1940 and a popular cartoon in the 1950's from
the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka. In China many more
film versions have appeared - 'The Birth of The Monkey King'
in 1949, 'A Modern Monkey King' in 1955 and 'Monkey' starring
Cheung Chung Man and directed by Hiu Mung Wah in 1966.
Apart from being regarded as a cult classic
Monkey is also encouraged as an educational introduction to
Buddhist thought and philosophy and its arrival as a prime
time television series was greeted with great excitement.
'Monkey Magic' is still broadcast all over the world.
This adaptation of Monkey is based on Arthur
Whalleys translation from the early 1940's
'Monkey Magic' drew from the later, picaresque
and episodic passages of Wu Cheng Ens book and emphasized
its surreal and comic aspects. This version looks towards
the earlier, lesser known and darker chapters which deal with
Monkey's birth and illumination and with the perplexity evoked
by new found immortality. Arthur Whalley calls Monkey "...
unique in its combination of beauty with absurdity, of profundity
with nonsense". It is with this duality that I wish to
imbue the story as it unfolds.
Originally set in China in 630 AD, this version
is updates to a modern fictitious eastern setting - an island
in the 'Bay of Thunder'. Most elements of the original story
are replaced by contemporary equivalents. The monsters and
demons of the original tales are now human. The dialogue,
however, retains its mannered tone. It is intended to create
the feeling of an island out of time, that is a world unto