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

The Prague Quadrennial

The Prague Quadrennial is the world’s largest exhibition of scenography and theatre architecture in the world. Puppet theatre is also represented. The Theatre Institute has just released a DVD of the 2003 Quadrennial. The DVD is only available in the English version, Pal.4:3 and region free. Price 20USD/16Euro. Post and packing not included.

The DVD is a virtual tour of exhibits from 50 countries, and lasts 150 minutes.

Info. Don Nixon. Theatre Institute. Celetna 17. 110.00 Prague, Czech Republic.


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

Lotte Reiniger

There is currently a renewed interest in the films of Lotte Reiniger, and a number of film houses are screening her legendary, ‘Prince Achmed’, and other short films. Some time ago The Royal Academy of Dance also included a well illustrated article about her life and work. This was later followed by a brief note with the title, ‘The Lotte I knew,’ my memories of her.
During the past few years there have been a considerable number of students of animation from art schools that have visited, ‘The World Through Wooden Eyes’, many of them rejecting computers and interesting themselves in the history and background to film animation, and the work of the great pioneers of the art.
The Goethe Institute has published a well illustrated and well written book about Lotte, Dealing with her life and development, her technique of animated film making, and filmography. British Film Institute has also issued a DVD of ‘Prince Achmed’, which also contains a documentary on her work.

John M. Blundall