The Magic of Inanimate Puppet Playing

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Thinking about the nature of modern puppet theatre, we are getting unwilling ideas that unlike its traditional folk forms it does not have any rigid system of rules. Means of puppet theatre give the opportunity to reflect any life realty since its specificity lays in animation of dead matter; its central attribute is a puppet, which is free of physical laws and depends on the animating impulse of the puppeteer. This important instrument of puppet theatre is being animated thanks to movement within some space initiated by the puppeteer. Recently the opinion that a puppet is just a poor imitation of a man and it should have as least analogy with him as possible has become widespread. However, in this case, is this concept correspondent to the specificity of animation that symbolizes motions and activity of a man?

Otherwise, if the puppet is being deprived of the similarity with a man, including not just appearance but motifs of behavior and activity, this fact cannot reduce significance of Theatre of Subjects, as this is also the inanimate nature, but unlike puppets and in addition, it does not have any external similarity with a man but has sufficient potential of expressiveness in various symbols. Thus, we can resume that the principal magic of puppet theatre’s art lays in the close connection of a puppet and man. Admiration of spectators is caused by sudden recognition of “the human” in icy motionless of a puppet. It seems paradoxical but advantages of puppet theatre before a real actor playing are connected with inanimation of the puppet. The most important attributes of puppet theatre are stage, decoration and elements of props; in addition, they are partners of the puppet and actual participants of the action.

For the last ten years, the Republican Puppet Theatre has created its own original repertoire for children. All plays, differed in genre, are extremely musical and expressive; they have elements of fine taste, aesthetic and ethic context.

The brightest among them are the plays regenerating sources of traditional folk puppet theatre and preserving names of its forms having come from far centuries. They are “Chodir khaiol”, “Chodir jamol” and “Caravanserai…” with hand puppets on half-length curtain and fantoccini. These traditional forms in their modern interpretations preserve natural music of folk instruments: doira, nogor and dutar; obligatory is the participation of kizikchi-maskarbozas (saltimbanco) and korformon (booster). The subject line itself bases on popular stories about Khodja Nasreddin, whose bright humour is close to adventures of the Uzbek puppet character, Kachal Polvan (Bald Strong Man). In short, His Majesty “street theatre”, having survived centuries in all its beauty, is coming to modern spectators to remind about itself, to fill hearts with good and bouncy laugh. In this carrousel of folk forms, the Russian raree show has not been forgotten; by its atmosphere and forms, it is close to the Uzbek traditional puppet art. We mean the play “The Gay Raree Show” (producers F. Khodjaev and D. Yuldasheva).

The same saltimbancos, cockfights, scenes with Petrushka and farcical scenes with Gipsy, Kettle, Bear etc. The plays said above use a rich set of puppet systems – from hand puppet, stick puppets, board and shadow puppets up to fantoccini, groundwork and stock puppets. The theatre pays special attention to regeneration of the repertoire for the adults. This is a legendary Central Asian epos “Alpamish” after the original play of N. Tulyakhodjaev about the strong man Alpamish, whose exploits brought happiness to the people. He destroyed the enemy and returned the land and peace to his homeland. The play “The People and Birds” has bright and original scenography of the artist B. Ismailov. Music of A.Latifzadae is creating the festive atmosphere. In a whole, the theatre has succeeded to create the patriotic image of national hero and to celebrate love of Alpamish and Oybarchin.

The play “Issumbosi” was called after the name of the character from the Japanese fairytale, which N. Normatov has adapted for the puppet theatre. This peculiar Tom Thumb the Great Sun sent to childless Old Man and Woman is doing good on the earth and tries to save people from cunning devil’s evil doing. The producer Sh. Yusupov in a company with the artist R. Kamaletdinov and composer A. Ikromov created the musical story with happy end. Scene solution of the undersea kingdom creating full illusion of water and sea creatures is very interesting.

The play “The Language of Birds” of Kh. Rasul on the title poem of A. Navoy (the producer, Emeritus Artist of Uzbekistan Sh. Yusupov, the composer A. Ikromov) is very original. Puppets perform parabolic scenes, and the birds are solved in plastic forms with tremendous masks and colourful palette of feathers.

For many years, the puppet theatre has not been able even to touch the problems of human heart. Such words as “specificity” and “artificial puppet forms” as if gave a right to get round the matters of human soul. However, the play “And Anderson Again…” of D. Yuldasheva after motifs of the tale “The Girl with Matches” of H.C. Anderson disproved this concept fencing the world of a child off real life with its cruelty. Idyllic pictures are slowing the children to have orientations in their further life.

Tragedy of the girl frozen in a street of a big city on the New Year eve should deeply touch the child’s heart. D. Yuldasheva exposed the conflict between cold indifferent real world and magic world of lonely girl where she obtains happiness flying away to the sky to her far dead mother with all her fictional heroes. The artist S. Sedukhin and composer A. Ikromov created wonderful world of dream where the girl found dear and amusing friends, warmth of their hearts, holiday of New Year tree and beloved mummy. For many years, this is the first time the board puppets have been used. Three masters on “black cabin” drive each such puppet. There is an effect of cartoon and full impression of the puppet’s independent movement.

Now the theatre is surviving the period of hard searching for formation of modern repertoire and this way is fruitful.

Author: Takhir Yuldashev

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