Synopsis and Illustrated Guide

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 scriptures.

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 itself.