Festival for Puppet Theater: Synergura 2012
From July 4 to 8, the ninth Synergura, the long-established puppet theater festival, took place in Erfurt.
Synergura is Thuringia’s only international festival for puppet theater and has been organized as a biennial since 1992 by the Waidspeicher Theater and sponsored by the Free State of Thruingia and the state capital of Erfurt. After a financially forced break, it took place again under its new director Sibylle Tröster.
Historical house for new forms
In the parent house, the medieval Waidspeicher, on the two stages of the modernist new theatre building of the city, and in the Schotte Youth Theatre and in St. Michael’s Church, young and old could enjoy a varied program with puppets, masks and animated objects. At the Anger, Erfurt’s central square, the Nuremberg Paper Theater set up a very long table and asked passers-by what is really “priceless”. In Nerly, the festival café, the question was taken up in a public discussion and every evening there were pleasant encounters with guests from many countries, artists and a professional audience.
Opening with masks
The Flöz Family, a mime mask troupe from Berlin, opened the festival with the highly amusing and tragic-comical Hotel Paradiso . Amidst amazing acrobatics and splendid slapstick, not a word passed the actors lips; here the bodies of the performers talked through many bizarre characters, switching at a breathless pace between social satire and comic detective story. They received jubilant applause; it was a bravura start.
Language, alpenhorns, sand and filigree figures
In Hôtel de Rive - Giacomettis horizontale Zeit (Hôtel de Rive – Giacometti’s Horizontal Time), Frank Söhnle from the figurentheater tübingen, Et Compagnie Bagages de Sable from France and the Stadelhofen Theater from Zurich came up with all sorts of associations about the person of the versatile surrealist artist Alberto Giacometti. The actor Patrick Michaelis read aloud what had moved the sculptor, painter and poet, his small everyday defeats, his fears, his depressions. A video camera projected close-ups of Giacometti’s visage on the upstage wall and Frank Söhnle led his delicate, fragile, skeleton-like marionettes up to the face of the man whose thoughts here found words: a moving attempt to understand the eternal, avant-garde “seeker of the absolute” (Sartre).
Questioning friends from Halle
In Der unsichtbare Vater (The Invisible Father) by Amelie Fried, the Halle Puppet Theater brought on stage the very topical theme of the patchwork family in the form of narrative theater with table puppets. On a wide, deep stage, Meine Kältekammer (My Cold Chamber) told the story of a rich man who wants to have a monument to himself, a theater play about his life, before his soon-expected death. The staff of his company, a supermarket with a cooling room and its own cement factory, is instructed to write and perform the work.
Waidspeicher on its own account
The host theater showed its own solid productions. Anna Fülle regaled preschoolers and their chaperones with her solo performance Guten Tag, kleines Schweinchen(Hello, Little Pig), a story by Janosch. A human body between carefully managed jointed puppets, resembling a painter’s model, Fülle could also be seen in a poetic production of Romeo and Juliet , wordlessly eloquent, with ballet music by Prokofiev. A third, lavish sample of the Waidspeicher’s work was Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Not quite politically correct, but one of the best parts
A star in the world of puppetry is the Holland-based Australian Neville Tranter, who here could be seen with his Punch & Judy in Afghanistan. Grotesque moving-mouth puppets and a human counterpart: Tranter is a virtuoso animator of his heroes and, at the same time, their helpful partner, assuming changing roles. His Stuffed Puppet Theater ventures into dangerous territory with a grin.
Christmas carols and Theatrum Mundi
Robert Waltl’s Miniteater from Ljubljana presented a special sort of nativity play: The Donkey of Nazareth. The puppets, the holy family, the good shepherds, the Magi with their camels, and the angels were modeled on Baroque figures in Catholic churches in Istria, the Croatian-Italian coast. Yet the Christmas carols, sung with fervent relish by three men, come from Slovenia. In the large city theater there was then a co-production of the Waidspeicher Theater with the Erfurt Theater: König Arthus – mechanical puppets on a moving walkway, with magnificent singing and a jaunty Purcell-playing chamber orchestra; a “semi-opera” with many allusions to our time, including to soccer.
Material theater from Stuttgart
Drei Affen, Parabel vom Aufstand der Dinge (Three Monkeys, A Parable about the Rebellion of Things) was in the finals and won the festival prize. People in the land of Dingdal live in peace with things and speak a very rudimentary language in which, for example, one cannot say “thank you”. One day the peace of Dingdal comes out of joint when things no longer submit to being manipulated and go into revolt. The chair, the coffee cups, the dustbin, the dustpan and the whisk broom take on their own life; the people look for help in the application of adhesive tape, but in vain. In this play things have assumed power; their symbol is the fourth leg. Here it is a chair leg, but it could also be the missing leg that an inventive dramaturgy provides a rickety play.
In its new start, over the space of five days Synergura succeeded in presenting a considerable variety of forms and possibilities, and so in continuing its tradition as one of the most important festivals for puppet theatre, whose selection of plays enjoys a good reputation. It was a successful new beginning that Sybille Tröster will be able to build on at the next Synergura in 2014.
The author is a journalist and writer based in Berlin, who has a great love of puppet theater. He is a member of the jury of Synergura.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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