The Actors Centre

Suspense Puppetry Festival

2 November 2015

Why Puppets?

That’s what I often ask myself. Along with: What is it about puppetry that appeals to me? Is it ok to like puppets as an adult? Am I weird? (friends please don’t answer that question) Why was Handspring/National Theatre’s “War Horse” Such a smash hit? So many questions…

Puppetry is a very ancient art form, thought to have originated about 3,000 years ago, and, some say, even pre-date actors in theatre. Puppets have been used to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. They are commonly used to represent political points of view and to support religious teachings, as well as a universal and much loved form of entertainment. Puppetry is performed across the whole world and every culture has its own strong puppet traditions: Indonesian shadow theatre, Japanese Bunraku puppetry, Vietnamese water puppets. It is not known as a form of children’s entertainment. It’s an art form for all. 

I fell in love with puppetry when I worked at Battersea Arts Centre in the 90’s, after seeing early work by Handspring, such as “Faustus in Africa”, and “The Seed Carriers” by Stephen Mottram (now part of suspense festival). Puppets can somehow get away with doing so much more than actors, for example they can fly, they can give birth on stage, they can make potentially inflammatory statements about political regimes. In some countries it is the only voice that people have to be subversive. When I first saw War Horse at the National Theatre I was absolutely bowled over by Joey. He was puppeteered with such skill and grace that the puppeteers became invisible and you only saw this beautiful beast of a horse. He was so believable that many in the audience wept like babes when witnessing the hardship he endured during the Great War.

In the suspense puppetry festival, happening in London from now until 8th November, we bring you the best of international and home-grown puppetry for adult audiences. There are 40 shows on the menu to suit every taste. Delight in tales of wonder, immerse yourself in some great stories or just come for a rip roaring good night out.

To compliment this programme of shows, there are lots of talks and events (many of which are free!). There are also fabulous workshops happening in at the Actors Centre, where you can get to grips with the wonderful art form of puppetry. Have a look at all our training opportunities HERE.

Slavka Jovanović, Director of Suspense Puppetry Festival

Suspense Puppetry Festival takes place from 29th October - 8th November at mulitple venues.