Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Sad Marionette

This marionette of a jester with his lute and belled cap is one of my favourites. He wears the slightly bemused expression that I associate with Dalibor, the mediaeval Czech knight who though under sentence of death played his violin so sweetly that thousands trooped to the tower where he was incarcerated to hear his sad strains. My jester has a slightly chipped plaster face (the usual material; only the really expensive puppets are completely carved from limewood).

The history of puppeteering in Prague goes back to at least 1771 when a play with marionettes was put on with indifferent results because of the actors' inability to speak Czech. Purists will tell you that true marionette plays should not really depend on spoken language - although singing, it seems, is fine: a perennially popular show these days is a puppet version of Mozart's 'Don Giovanni'.

Prague is well-known today for two specific types of theatre which have their origins in puppetry: Black Light theatre, in which props are manipulated by unlit actors, giving inanimate objects a spookily lifelike quality, and 'Magic Lantern' productions, in which live actors mime and dance in front of back-projected films. Though not technically a puppet show, 'The Wonderful Circus', one of the most popular of these Laterna Magika productions, has clowns interacting with larger-than-life dolls in a variety of surreal scenes.


Leif Hagen said...

It would be fun to have one to hang or set in a kid's room! Nice snap!

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