Puppets Part 1

Puppetry today has a worldwide history. From Religious roots to secular expression, diversity of genre prevails. Puppetry is in constant evolution exemplified through companies such as Polyglot and Snuff Puppets, the Androids and Festive Factory.

String puppets, finger puppets, hand puppets felt puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes, Ventriloquism. The list goes on and on proving that the diversity of the puppet medium is full, rich and honestly quite extraordinary.

Further, it is a worldwide phenomenon where different cultures seem to have specialized in different forms or genres.
The following list is by no means conclusive:

  • Japanese – Bunraku
  • China – Shadow and more recently, Finger Puppets,
  • Indonesia – Rod and Shadow
  • Europe – Strings, Punch and Judy,  Glove
  • USA – ‘Muppets’ (a kind of glorified hand puppet technique)
  • Vietnam – Water Puppets
  • Middle East – Shadow, Glove and String
  • India – String
  • Western Europe and Australia – all of the above PLUS ‘found object’ and ‘black light’ theatre.

Common to many of the cultures listed above is the telling of tales through live narrative and musical accompaniment set to one side of the stage. In Western practice, performance to sound track is not uncommon.

Linking this worldwide phenomenon is the durability and popularity of the art form. Most of the Asian cultures listed above boast an impressive history where many of the earliest practices were associated with religious ceremony and ritual.

But Puppetry is in a constant state of evolution. From religious practice to secular festivals, even in the last 20 years in the west, there appears to have been an explosion in the art form. From puppetry performed in theatres (some dedicated spaces such as those in Eastern Europe) to the streets in public spaces, the breadth and scope of performances has been extraordinary. At the same time there has been an unprecedented combining of styles or genres that truly represents movement into new development.

To be continued next week.