Marionette, puppet and shadow theatre feature among the oldest artistic expressions of our culture. The theatrical and literary roots of the dramatic arts in all civilizations, can be linked to the puppet theatre, which has evolved over the centuries in diverse and extraordinary ways.
This can be seen by simply contemplating the diverse varieties of puppetry that developed during the medieval period, ranging from sacred and mysterious representations to nativity scenes in which figures, marionettes and speaking statues took part.
There has always been an abundant crossover between standard theatre and puppet theatre, spanning various different forms. For example in the Middle Ages, the theatrical notion of the mask underwent many changes, feeding on and absorbing characters from different settings.
One of the specific attractions of puppet theatre is the comic element, particularly that of the marionettes: grandiloquent, paradoxical, intelligent and effective. The comic element takes its expression not only from gestures, which represent a unique and fundamental type of language in this type of theatre, but also from the vocabulary, theatrical backdrops and scenery. It often turns into a savage and exaggerated social criticism, despite the fact that this is never presented as its end purpose.
The puppets themselves are a synthesis of the actor, be it engendered by the illusion of movement or that of exasperation. In addition, all the theatrical languages in puppet theatre, converge in a single intense and essential form.
This is why I personally consider puppetry to also be an incredible source of inspiration. With both marionettes and painting I have the same response to feelings of creative block or lack of productivity, and reach a rational outcome by creating a sequence of marionette scenes, which act as an outline or sketch for my synthesis. Likewise I reach a synthesis through dressing up the marionettes, creating scenery and a dramatic plot, and thus everything else fades.
Marionettes have been, and will continue to be present in my working life. Naturally, it is due in large part to Franca [Franca Rame is Dario Fo’s wife and partner] and to her family’s tradition, which she maintained and took great pleasure from. As an aside, let me mention that at a particular period of their history the Rames ran a very large and successful company of marionettes, having working in the traditional theatre for more than sixty years.
I have been using puppets and marionettes since I started performing., beginning with “Grande pantomima con pupazzi piccoli e medi”, in which half of the characterises were played by marionettes. The last experience with puppet shows was the show we staged with Franca and Giorgio Albertazzi in “Il diavolo con le zinne”
To finish I would like to remind you that in the case of the “Grande pantomima” we not only used pupazzi but also marionettes known as catalanas and other enormous figures that were over three metres tall. By this act we demonstrated that breaking with the uniformity of forms of expression could produce a profound theatrical value that was unexpected even by those of us who had conceived of the idea.
As you will have gathered, I love puppetry, and the UNIMA-organised World Puppetry Day offers me the chance to express the joy that artists and creators experience every day, all over the world, engaged in different types of puppetry.
Nobel Prize for Literature 1997