puppet theatre



  • A form of dramatic entertainment in which the characters arerepresented by dolls. The best known form in Britain and America isthe Punch and Judy show while popular figures elsewhere includeGuignol in France, Kasperl in Austria, and Petrushkain Russia. Varieties of doll include glove puppets manipulated byhand, marionettes operated by string or wire, rod puppets,and shadow puppets.

    Most ancient civilizations had highly developed puppet theaters.Far from being aimed at children, as is now the case in the West,the puppet plays depicted the religious, historical, and ethical traditionsof a culture. Puppets have a long history in Java and India, and arestill used in both countries at religious festivals. In Japan, puppetryhas been traced back to the Heian era (781 - 1185); the famouslife-size Bunraku puppets (ningyo shibai) achievedgreat popularity in the 18th century.

    Puppet theater was probably brought to Europe from the Eastthrough turkey and Greece. Early religious puppet plays in Englandwere called motions. However, puppetry never became a partof the mainstream European theater, being relegated to fairs and streetsand practised largely by itinerant showmen. The early 20th centurysaw a renewed interest in puppetry as a serious art form. George BernardShaw wrote a playlet for marionettes, while the designer E. GordonCraig (see Craig family), wrote in his The Artof the Theatre:

    In the puppet we have all those elements necessary to interpretationand in the puppet stage every element necessary to a creative andfine art.