Training and professional development:
Penny Francis reports on the Polish Festival
of Schools of Puppetry
this the third festival of schools of puppetry in Bialystok,
north east Poland, the Brits were represented by the MA in
Advanced Theatre Practice and the BA in Theatre Practice courses
that run at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London.
Not strictly a puppetry school, but a theatre school that
includes puppetry. Other schools came from Berlin, (Ernst
Busch), Finland (Arts Academy at Turku), Bialystok itself
(Akademia Teatralna) and a second Polish school from Wroclaw,
Latvia (Academy of Culture), Slovakia (Academy of Music and
Dramatic Arts, Bratislava), Jerusalem (School of Visual Theatre),
Budapest (University of Theatre and Film), Cervia (Glove Puppet
studio), St. Petersburg (Theatre Arts Academy), Croatia (Strossmayer
Art Academy), Ukraine (State University of the Arts), Prague
(Academy of Performing Arts) and Lithuania (the Academy of
Fine Arts in Vilnius), which produced an intriguing exhibition.
Fourteen! There was a fifteenth: the Institute in Charelville-Mezieres
fielded four short, original and brilliantly performed solo
vignettes, but played, unexpectedly, by ex-students, all now
professionals. An extra level had been added to the otherwise
level playing field. I’m sure there was a rationale
for this, but I couldn’t find out what it was.
Bialystok is a market town of medium size,
but the audiences consisted mainly of the students themselves,
of whom there were scores, probably 200 or more. Plus of course
their tutors. The organisers offered generous hospitality,
and we could only admire the smooth running of the event and
envy the generous subsidy from the cultural authorities and
Up to eight shows a day were to be seen in
a handful of venues scattered over the town and we walked
miles – or so it felt, in the tropical heat. I made
out few new trends among the future practitioners of the artform:
in general, the productions featured a mixture of performers
and puppet figures. The schools producing a number of short
studies in manipulation, such as Turku, Jerusalem and Budapest,
were much appreciated for their skills, humour and polish.
Some productions of full-length pieces where the actors carried
more weight than the puppets, were less popular. Prague’s
jolly version of The Cunning Little Vixen contained little
puppetry – perhaps the orchestral instruments counted.
The students clapped thunderously.
In spite of Prague, more value appeared to
be placed on puppet figures and skills than two years previously,
when there seemed to be a determination to avoid them if possible.
No one technique featured more than another, and in general
the range of themes chosen was wide. Yet I was disappointed
at the absence of the ‘wow’ factor and any original
trends in the work as a whole. Perhaps next time.