Category Archives: Books

Marina Warner ‘Stranger Magic’

At the recent annual ‘Aye Write’ Festival at the Mitchell Library we had the pleasure, for the second time, to listen to the fascinating talks by Marina Warner. Her many books are absolute goldmines of ideas and information for puppeteers.

Her latest book, ‘Stranger Magic’, ‘Charmed States and the Arabian Nights’, is an outstanding history of magical thinking, exploring the power of the Arabian Nights and its impact on the west and revealing some of its wondrous tales.

Her book shows how magic, in its deepest sense, how it helped to create the modern world and how it is still inscribed in the way we think today.

We spent a considerable time discussing many common interests including Lotte Reiniger, the legendary silhouette film maker. The cover of her book reflects her work, and puppeteers will be interested to know that a chapter about Lotte is in the book.

540 pages, many black and white illustrations, and 16 pages of fine coloured illustrations.

Published by Chatto and Windus. The book costs £28.

John Blundall


This is a stunningly beautiful large coffee table book based on the museum and Collection of Paul Lin in Taiwan. It provides a unique picture of the professional and diverse range of Asian puppet theatre culture with 347 photographic illustrations including 234 of some of the finest colour photographs of puppets by Wang Hanshun I have seen.

D. Paul Lin, Founder of the Taiyuan Arts and Culture Foundation and a tireless promoter of Taiwanese culture established the TTT Puppet Centre in with its director Dr. Robin Ruezendaal in 2002, In 2005 the Centre moved into a new and permanent home.  Housing the collection, a theatre and educational facilities, it also houses a residential performing company that has made tours to many parts of the world…………Click for More

John M. Blundall



Anyone who has seen the extraordinary performances of the marionette performers from Quanzhou is left without any doubt that they are the finest in the world. Some years ago whilst I was undertaking a study of puppet theatre in China for the Ministry of Culture, my stay in The Quanzhou Marionette Theatre was certainly the most inspiring.

This new book  ‘Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou’, by Robin Ruizendaal, published by Brill, is the most important and exhaustive on the subject. Through the 470 pages of the book every minute detail is explored and explained.

The Fujian region of China, in which Quanzhou exists, is one of the oldest and richest in terms of the puppeteers art. This new book deals with the early origins and the sources of the repertoire, and the marionette theatre companies and musicians. From the Tang to late Quing, and the Republican period. Then concentrates on three companies from 1949 to 2003.

The education of the puppet theatre is analysed, including the now closed Quanzhou Art School teaching programme, course and structure. This is followed by in-depth accounts of puppets construction and manipulation, and the stage, repertoire and performance context, a ritual prelude. The book finally looks at thoughts on the future of research into the art and craft, translated plays, and an exhaustive bibliography, collected manuscripts, and audio visual material.


‘Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou’, by Robin Ruizendaal, published By Brill. ISBN 9789004151048. Series number SINL.073. List price EUR 120. List price US$ 161.


John M. Blundall

September 2007

Septimus Pitt and the Grumbleoids

During the recent ‘Annual, ‘Aye Write Festival,’ in The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, ‘Septimus Pitt and the Grumbleoids,’ a new book of poems for children was launched. The author, Brian Whittingham observed interesting characters in and around Glasgow, and, unknown to us, he saw a performance of our ‘An Illusion of Life,’ and was inspired to write an illustrated poem about us, with the title, ‘The Retired Puppeteer‘, The first public reading of poems from the book was accompanied by a short performance by Stephen Foster, and his recently completed ‘Pierrot, ‘The Worlds Child’.

An important new book on Japanese theatre

‘Progressive Traditions’ An Illustrated Study of Plot Repetition in Traditional Japanese Theatre. By Helen Parker. From Brill’s Japanese Studies Library. Volume 22. Published 2002.

This monograph with accompanying CD-ROM explores through plot repetition the relationships between three genres of Japanese theatre, No, Kabuki, and ningyo-joruri, with a focus on plays depending on final fugitive years of Minamoto Yoshitsune.

First, the theoretical background to the concept of plot repetition is discussed and the theme of Yoshitsune’s downfall is introduced. The next and main section analyses the treatment of the Funabenkei and   Ataka//Kanjincho plots. In the three genres, with references to their historical development and contemporary performance.

The CD-ROM contains video clips, photographs and nishiki-e prints from productions in each genre to illustrate how the plots are presented on stage.

‘Progressive Traditions’ is an important and scholarly work that gives a fascinating insight into the links between the Noh theatre, Kabuki, and Ningyo Joruri, better known to puppeteers as Bunraku.

John M. Blundall

Czech Puppet Theatre – Yesterday and Today’

Czechoslovak theatre and puppet theatre publications from The Czech Theatre Institute in Prague.

Czech puppet theatre has always preserved its nationalistic qualities; it has always been possible to feel the energies of past generations of puppeteers reflected in the many and various modern productions seen over the years.

‘Czech Puppet Theatre – Yesterday and Today’, is a well designed book full coloured photographs and details of its developments over the years, from its earliest beginnings to its contemporary theatres.

The book pin-points the all important amateur infrastructure, the oldest puppet theatre buildings, the formation of modern Czech puppeteers, and the extraordinary talents of some of the major personalities such as Josef Skupa, Jan Malik and Eric Kolar, Developments after World 2, and the reformation of UNIMA. The major personalities of modern Czech puppet theatre include the outstanding director, Josef Krofta, who pushed the boundaries of the puppet theatre to its extremes, the puppet film makers Jiri Trnka and Jan Svankmejer, Jiri Srnec, and The Black Theatre. Contemporary puppet theatres. Museums of puppets, puppet theatre schools, Loutkar the puppet theatre magazine, festivals and Czech UNIMA complete this fascinating publication, and are well worth having, to understand the achievements one of the leading countries, and the achievements of generations of puppeteers, and other specialists involved in the art.

John M. Blundall


Podoby Loutky, ‘Forms of Puppets‘, By Alois Tomanek, was first published in 1998; it is now published in English. Alois Tomanek is a puppet theatre designer and director who wrote and illustrated this book which contains material dealing with technical details of a wide range of puppet constructional techniques, controls, manipulation techniques, puppet stages, puppet theatres and sightlines, the puppet and the actor, and more besides. There is a listing of leading Czech puppet theatre personalities, and terminology, also a 48 pages of colour and black and white photographs, and a vast number of line drawings in the text Paperback, A5, 220 pages. Published by The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Approximately £12.50 or €18.

A new Russian Encyclopaedia of puppet theatre.

During the ‘Dynamics Festival, in Birmingham Tolya and Lara from ‘Tut I Tam’,  delivered  a fine new publication by my much respected friend and colleague Boris Goldovsky, Director of The State Academic Puppet Theatre of Sergei Obraztsov. Boris, is a prolific writer of puppet books, and has produced a very fine encyclopaedia of puppet theatre, published in 2004. It is a beautifully produced book prefaced by a series of fine coloured photographs of puppets from different parts of the world; the text, is in Russian.

John M. Blundall