The Puppet Show

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How right she was. I had never heard of M W Craven before.

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The Stone Circle. The string puppets of Karnataka are called Gombeyatta. Puppets from Tamil Nadu , known as Bommalattam , combine the techniques of rod and string puppets. India has a variety of types and styles of shadow puppets. Shadow puppets are flat figures cut out of leather, which has been treated to make it translucent.

Shadow puppets are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. The manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouettes or colourful shadows, as the case may be, for the viewers who sit in front of the screen. Tholpavakoothu or Tolpava Koothu is a tradition of shadow puppetry that is unique to Kerala , India.

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The shadow theatre of Karnataka is known as Togalu Gombeyatta. These puppets are mostly small in size. The puppets, however, differ in size according to their social status: for instance, large size for kings and religious characters and smaller size for common people or servants. Rod puppets are an extension of glove-puppets, but are often much larger and supported and manipulated by rods from below.

This form of puppetry now is found mostly in West Bengal and Orissa. The traditional rod puppet form of West Bengal is known as Putul Nautch. They are carved from wood and follow the various artistic styles of a particular region. The traditional rod puppet of Bihar is known as Yampuri. Glove puppets are also known as sleeve, hand or palm puppets. The rest of the figure consists of a long, flowing skirt.

These puppets are like limp dolls, but in the hands of an able puppeteer, are capable of producing a wide range of movements. The manipulation technique is simple the movements are controlled by the human hand, the first finger inserted in the head and the middle finger and the thumb in the two arms of the puppet. With the help of these three fingers, the glove puppet comes alive. In Uttar Pradesh , glove puppet plays usually present social themes, whereas in Orissa such plays are based on stories of Radha and Krishna.

In Orissa , the puppeteer plays a dholak hand drum with one hand and manipulates the puppet with the other. The delivery of the dialogue, the movement of the puppet and the beat of the dholak are well synchronised and create a dramatic atmosphere. In Kerala , the traditional glove puppet play is called Pavakoothu.

Burmese puppet theatre with musicians in the foreground 19th-century watercolour. Afghanistan has produced a form of puppetry known as buz-baz. During a performance a puppeteer will simultaneously operate a marionette of a markhor while playing a dambura long-necked lute. Middle Eastern puppetry, like its other theatre forms, is influenced by the Islamic culture. Karagoz , the Turkish Shadow Theatre, has widely influenced puppetry in the region and it is thought to have passed from China by way of India.

Later, it was taken by the Mongols from the Chinese and passed to the Turkish peoples of Central Asia. Other scholars claim that shadow theater came to Anatolia in the 16th century from Egypt.

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The advocates of this view claim that shadow theatre found its way into the Ottoman palaces when Yavuz Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in He saw shadow theatre performed during a party in his honour and he was said to be so impressed with it that he took the puppeteer back to his palace in Istanbul where his year -old son, later Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent , developed an interest in the plays. In other areas, the style of shadow puppetry known as khayal al-zill , a metaphor translated as "shadows of the imagination" or "shadow of fancy", still survives.

This is a shadow play with live music, "the accompaniment of drums, tambourines and flutes In Iran , puppets are known to have existed much earlier than AD, but initially only glove and string puppets were popular. Kheimeh Shab-Bazi is a traditional Persian puppet show which is performed in a small chamber by a musical performer and a storyteller called a morshed or naghal. These shows often take place alongside storytelling in traditional tea and coffee-houses Ghahve-Khane.

The dialogue takes place between the morshed and the puppets. A recent example of puppetry in Iran is the touring opera Rostam and Sohrab. Although there are few remaining examples of puppets from ancient Greece , historical literature and archaeological findings shows the existence of puppetry. The Iliad and the Odyssey were presented using puppetry. The roots of European puppetry probably extend back to the Greek plays with puppets played to the "common people" in the 5th century BC.

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In ancient Greece and ancient Rome clay dolls, and a few of ivory, dated from around BC, were found in children's tombs. These dolls had articulated arms and legs, and in some cases an iron rod extending up from the tops of their heads. This rod was used to manipulate the doll from above, as it is done today in Sicilian puppetry.

A few of these dolls had strings in place of rods. Some researchers believe these ancient figures were simply toys and not puppets, due to their small size. Italy is considered by many to be the early home of the marionette due to the influence of Roman puppetry. Xenophon and Plutarch refer to them.

Puppeteers responded by setting up stages outside cathedrals and became even more ribald and slapstick. Out of this grew the Italian comedy called Commedia dell'arte.


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  • Puppets were used at times in this form of theatre and sometimes Shakespeare 's plays were performed using marionettes instead of actors. In Sicily , the sides of donkey carts are decorated with intricate, painted scenes from the Frankish romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland. These same tales are enacted in traditional puppet theatres featuring hand-made marionettes of wood. In Sicilian this is called " Opera dei pupi ", or "Opera of the puppets". The 18th century was a vital period in the development of all Italian theatre, including the marionette theatre.

    The rod puppet was mainly of lower-class origin, but the marionette theatre was popular in aristocratic circles, as a celebration of the Age of Enlightenment. The effects, and the artful and complex construction of the puppets, the puppet theatres, and the puppet narratives, were all popular, particularly in Venice.

    Guignol is the main character in the French puppet show which has come to bear his name.