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Strings Attached: Cake and Puppets Theater Troupe

Published on May 14th, 2015 in Entertainment

  • The Naughty Goats (photo courtesy of www.letniletna.cz)

  • The Three Little Pigs (photo courtesy of www.letniletna.cz)

  • Hansel & Gretel (photo courtesy of www.letniletna.cz)

  • Photo from the filming of Malý Pán (photo courtesy of www.malypan.cz)

  • Photo from the filming of Malý Pán (photo courtesy of www.malypan.cz)

  • Photo from the filming of Malý Pán (photo courtesy of www.malypan.cz)

  • Photo from the filming of Malý Pán (photo courtesy of www.malypan.cz)

  • Performing "Derniéra Artuše" (photo courtesy of Buchty a loutky, photographer: Helena Janků)

  • Performing "Derniéra Artuše" (photo courtesy of Buchty a loutky, photographer: Helena Janků)

  • Performing "Derniéra Artuše" (photo courtesy of Buchty a loutky, photographer: Helena Janků)

 

Puppetry is to the Czech Republic what mime is to France—it’s huge. A new feature-length puppet film (opening in Czech theaters in mid May) is proof of that. “Malý Pán” (The Little Man), based on the book The Big Journey of Little Man by Lenka Uhlířová and Jiří Stach, uses some truly innovative production techniques. Puppets actually move behind the camera, which I’m told is, technically, very challenging, and almost the entire film was shot outdoors, in the lush forests of South Bohemia.

 

The visual appearance of the puppets and props was designed by artist František Antonín Skala, son of the famous Czech sculptor František Skala. And what’s even more interesting is that the director of the film is Radek Beran the founder of the iconic Prague-based puppet troupe Buchty a Loutky (Cake and Puppets), one of my personal favorite independent puppet companies.

 

So called because in the early days of their career they offered traditional Czech sweet buns to the audience, Buchty a Loutky, performs its repertoire—which includes plays for both children and adults—at venues around Prague including the National Theater’s Nová scéna, and occasionally festivals and events in the capital city and beyond. But their permanent home is at Švandovo Divadlo where most Sunday afternoons they do a lively show for kids.

 

We recently caught a staging of “The Naughty Goats” here and I must say it was an afternoon well spent. For the bargain price of 90 CZK you get about an hour of puppet magic from masters of the genre in in theater’s basement studio, the perfect space for this kind of performance. Pillows are arranged in the front row for children to sprawl on and afterwards there is a meet and greet that lets little ones handle the actual marionettes.

 

 

 

  “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Little Three Pigs” (photos courtesy of www.letniletna.cz)

 

I personally appreciated the set design: upcycled flea market chic with bits and pieces of vintage fabric and odds and ends comprising the backdrop that the puppets, themselves works of art, played out their antics against. The troupe also does “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Little Three Pigs” both of which we are looking forward to seeing. (Note that in Prague, most theaters take a summer hiatus starting in June and are back for the new season in September.)

 

For non-Czech speakers like me the story is simple enough that you will understand what is going on and will certainly be able to appreciate the performance from a visual perspective. Our little one who is almost 2 was engaged the entire time, despite the fact that the performances are typically recommended for 3 and up.

 

And while we didn’t score any cake, the actors were handing out complementary stava, something like a Czech Kool-Aid, before and after the performance!
 

 

 

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