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Theatre Style: Puppetry

Puppetry is an artform that is boundless by culture, geography and age.  The range of performance is great, as is the range in puppet type.  

Variety and history

Chameleon's Shadow Puppetry Workshops; Photo: Courtesy John Fardell The types of puppets range from shadow puppets, glove puppets, rod/stick puppets and marionettes (string puppets).  Puppetry shows can make use of various forms, size and styles of puppets and deal with infinite storytelling possibilities, catering for adult and child audiences.  For example, in the Japanese Bunraku puppetry, the puppets are about half life size, with moving facial features and realistic actions.  Pupi Sicilliani uses a unique kind of large and heavy marionette covered with knightly armour.

Shadow puppetry was prevalent in ancient India, China and Turkey.  Ornate leather cutouts often lived out tales about Gods and demons.  The movement, size, style, manner of operation and content of the plays gave each type of puppet its unique qualities.

String puppets have existed for hundreds of years and have been a part of many cultures.  Legend suggests that string puppets existed in the Orient as early as 1000 B.C.

As the centuries passed, the popularity of string puppets grew in Europe, from minstrels providing impromptu roadside shows, to theatres being established to host plays written and performed completely by the marionettes. Puppetcraft's Sinbad; Photo: Courtesy John Fardell

Puppetry in Scotland today 

Puppetry in Scotland still flourishes.  Today’s puppeteers bring together performing, storytelling and technical skills as a minimum. 

Puppetry theatres, centres, festivals and networks support today's practitioners.

Dog and String Theatre Company; Photo: Courtesy John Fardell

For example, the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre aims to ‘establish a unique place as an international centre specialising in mask, mime, puppetry and physical theatre’, eventually to house a theatre, interactive museum, and education institute with professional design workshops.  Key to the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre’s remit is to ‘broaden the knowledge, familiarity, understanding and enjoyment of puppetry for all’.

Puppetry seminars are being held this year for professionals in the puppetry sector, organised by the Puppet Animation Festival.  For details of these, please email simon@puppetanimation.org.

* Profile - Ailie Cohen
* Focus on - Puppet Animation Festival
Related links
* Puppeteers UK
* Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre
* Puppet Animation Festival
* British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild
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