The exhibition “Marionnette”

Through 15 thematic tableaux, the exhibition showcases a variety of aesthetic stage puppets from the nineteen-twenties to the present.

To echo The Stage, a new museum space dedicated to scenography, the first part of the exhibition immerses the visitor into the creative process of a puppet show, reminding him that preparing  a performance is more than manufacturing puppets in a workshop. It also implies the office, the dramaturge’s and director’s stage platform, the interpreter’s rehearsal room and the costume designer’s table.

The focus is then put on ‘matter’… from shapeless to form or vice versa. The visitor is shown how, in plain sight, matter dramatically impacts the transformation of  a puppet’s shape, should it be made of glass, foam, wax or brown paper. Works by Renaud Herbin, Philippe Genty, Elise Vigneron, Johanny Bert and by Compagnie Les Anges au Plafond illustrate this point.

Thanks to puppets by Géza Blattner  and Compagnie Arkétal, the exhibition elaborates on the stylization of puppets as objects and analyzes their body language. With works by Edward Gordon Craig, it evokes attempts to reach the essence of the scenic game and with a performance by Théâtre aux mains nues, it refers to Stanislavski’s theatrical theories.  

In addition to Georges Lafaye’s “théâtre d’animation”, an animated painting by Dubuffet and painted rolls by Roland Shön put abstraction at the core of a puppet theatrical genre where forms fade away and where the notion of character dissolves.

In the following showrooms, the visitor learns about shadow, paper theatre, screen or pop-up techniques which allow contrasts and alternatives between two and three dimensional effects as well as games with plane and perspective as can be seen in Jean-Pierre Lescot’s works, in Alain Lecuq’s Papiertheatre and in Compagnie des Ombres Portées’ shows.

The study of “castelets”, or decorated sets, and blank stages brings forth this question : Where do puppets/puppeteers stand ? Scenic devices or models from performances by Gaston Baty, Alain Recoing, Le Vélo Théâtre, Emilie Valantin, Dominique Houdart and Jeanne Heuclin, and Francois Lazaro, present some artists who remain hidden while others stand in plain sight.

The next showroom tries to defy the law of gravity using circus puppets, to discuss virtuosity and to remind the visitor of the importance of ‘lightness’ in cabaret shows. Scenes by Jacques Chesnais, Philippe Genty and Georges Lafaye exemplify this genre.

With La Mue/ette’s L’un dans l’autre, the emphasis is put on puppets called « marionnettes à prothèse” (puppets with prosthetics) as well as on hybrid bodies, objects and spaces.

The exhibition continues with “théâtre d’objet”, and in particular on its “documentary” format by Compagnie La Bande Passante, and with the way the object, whether it is a set piece or a part of the game, works in the unfolding of the story.

The inquiries on the metamorphoses of bodies, characters, robots, animals, plants and more reappear to suggest the poetic and utopian worlds the puppets explore. Works by Philippe Genty, La Licorne, Zaven Paré, Roland Shön, Renaud Herbin, not to mention the astonishing creatures of Houdart-Heuclin’s Le Misanthrope, typify this approach.

Finally, the visitor encounters super realistic puppets from performances by Yngvild Aspeli or Bérangère Ventusso. The puppets’ duplicate or distorted bodies play with illusion and signal the richness of the bond between the body of the puppeteer, the puppet per se and the spectator. In the same stream of thoughts , the visitor can admire Émilie Valantin’s Faust, Roman Paska’s skeletons, as well as the puppets and costumes from Ariane Mounchkine’s Tambours sur la digue.