I’m very taken up at the moment with the question of how puppet theatre (and I use the term intentionally because I really do mean “theatre with puppets”) defines its position within the political framework. What I mean is the tradition that comes down to us from Punch and Judy in which popular theatre takes up a satirical and critical position in relation to political events, but at the same time adopts a sort of crude, simplistic “punk” attitude. It’s a tradition that I can really get to grips with. Over recent months I’ve noticed more and more works and had more and more contact with artists who are doing things in this area. In countries undergoing social and political transformation, in particular, these works often have a real urgency. At the same time, I think that in Berlin, too, there’s a renewed interest in the aesthetics and the content of concrete political forms. Here, though, rebellion is taking on a quite different form. It’s once again being marketed as an attitude you can acquire by buying a T-shirt. And that’s something that applies to us. As people making theatre, we like to think of ourselves as rebels, but we’re still pursuing a marketing strategy. It’s precisely this area of tension that I’d like to explore in THEATRE OF THINGS 2017.
Many of these international works are very context-dependent because they refer to a political situation that we’re not seeing directly here and because they don’t fit our traditional visual aesthetic. […] At the weekend it occurred to me that as you’re about to go off to Iraq you might be interested in these issues, too. Perhaps you are, so I’ll come straight to the point and ask whether you might be interested in collaborating on – what can I call it? – a framework or contextual programme like this?
In any case, I’m curious to know what you think!
I’m very interested in these issues and delighted that you’ve invited me to collaborate on the project.
My thoughts on the festival: The event in October 2017 will provide a potent opportunity to reach a group of people sitting together in a room through the physical presence of actors, puppets and objects. I can see the audiences: a multinational group of breathing, feeling, thinking individuals of different genders, different religions, waiting to be spoken to. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! The potential of puppet theatre lies in its “directness”, in its ability to “speak to” people.
Kasper/Punch bearing a brash, raucous message about the way people live today, about current social conditions, shamelessly devoid of all ethical and moral pretensions – or with a supposedly redrafted version of ethical and moral standards. He has one essential advantage: he’s quick, he makes a great, roguish news presenter, he’s an opinion-former, but he always challenges the audience to think for themselves.
In terms of the festival, I’d love to be able to bring something extra to it through music, discussion groups and the exchange of artistic practices and, in particular, (where appropriate and useful) to the creative artists present, in order to broaden the political dimension of their work.
Writing the programme today I’ve had another look at the “Pinhas!” trailer – the production really was there right at the start of the “Rebel Boy” theme. It really does have everything we’ve been discussing over the past year about rebellion and puppetry: its anarchic, pubescent humour, its violent political gestures, its extremely abbreviated content, mocking those in power, the puppet as an activist or disruptor, and the populism of Punch. And another important factor: the directness of communication. We’ve often talked about what it is we’re really looking for and I think that all the productions in the festival are about this very direct relationship between stage and audience, about creating a moment of rebellion – even if they go about it in completely different ways.
What I find particularly appealing is the choice of rebellion in the means and the methods of representation used in figure and object theatre, in music, in science and in cultural practice. You can sense it in the references to the personalities of the actors. To what extent are they creative rebels within an assumed artistic position? I’m not just talking about performances, but also about action and commitment in contexts created by a political environment. This opens up a territory that spans the gap between the factors that influence staging and the effect the staging produces on an audience.
As far as a programme of encounters concerned, I’m interested in what connects people in diversity. This notion of connection in art gets interesting whenever an artist personally creates something in order to “speak to” someone because of a personal experience he or she has had. I don’t mean just a representation of concern; I mean the artistic formulation of an alternative, a formulation that goes beyond just naming something and takes a step towards creating something that can communicate at an emotional level.
And so – like you, Tim – I hope that this journey of discovery will enable us to introduce the festival audiences to artists and to content that address the human condition as a political factor of connection and so leave a trace.