Marionettes that dance and charm

Marionettes that dance and charm

A young child seated in the front row gets up in the middle of a performance and tries to reach out to the artiste’s hand balancing sun glasses on the thumb and moulded to appear like the face of a man.

The performer doesn’t oppose the child’s presence on the stage and instead touches her hand and makes a kissing sound. The audience comprising the young and the old bursts into laughter as they cherish these intimate moments during the staging of Show Chantatrio at the recently concluded 12th Ishara International Puppet Festival.   

Segmented into various interactive acts, the puppet show presented by The Azerbaijan State Puppet Theatre at India Habitat Centre, was a melange of various puppetry techniques. From the rod to string, a variety of puppets were brought into play. The artistes made the puppets dance to folk numbers from different cultures and nations.

A clowning act, few basic magic tricks and some good music were enough for these artistes to bring a smile to the faces of the audience. The use of gibberish and less of Azerbaijani, added a universal appeal to the show.

“Whenever we perform outside we try and make the production non-verbal since translation loses the interest of the audience,” said Gurban Mansimov, director of Show Chantatrio emphasising that “It is important to create a piece that can be enjoyed by the adults too, since they are the ones who bring along the children.” His smart strategy worked and the audience never for a moment felt bored. The acts were timed well and presented in quick succession after the announcements made by a ‘vulture’ (a rod puppet).

The kids awaited in anticipation for the ‘dancing donkey’ – a puppet that not just looked cute but also acted cute when it demanded more marks from its master. A short love story was also presented through boy and girl puppets with a song inspiring one to think and remain positive.

But what stole the show was the use of body parts by the puppeteers. Three men entered the stage, displayed a few antics and clicked selfies. They then proceeded to roll up one leg of their lowers, tied a clown nose around their knees, wrap a shirt around their leg and put their hands into its sleeves to create dwarf puppets!

Spanish peppy music playing in the backdrop and the dwarf puppets expertly strumming the  guitar made one feel as if  one was attending a mini music concert. The act was repeated with the dwarf puppets playing drums in the second round. Once the song got over they proceeded to take a bow, even as the popular Punjabi song Munde bhangra pande starts playing. Confused about what to do, the musicians (read puppets) gibber to each other and then break into an impromptu dance, evoking much merriment.

Surpassing all hurdles that the art of puppetry faces, the festival staged a number of other shows that garnered positive feedback. Peter & The Wolf, a show by Finger and Thumb Theatre from UK was one of these.

Narrating the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s popular tale with music and scenery (using filmed light-scapes) provided a fresh lease to the technique of hand-shadow puppetry.
Equally adorable were the puppets in the production Seven Goatlings by Teatro Los Claveles which retold the fairy tale from Brothers Grimm. As the young watched in amazement how the mother goat rescued her kids from the wolf, one couldn’t help but endorse the potential of puppetry and its influence on all age groups.