Editor of the program comment

56th International Puppet Theatre Festival - pif

About One Dry Cleaner

There is a small dry-cleaner’s on my street. A nice and hard-working lady works there. Whenever I enter, she is there. Morning, afternoon, weekdays, Saturdays. The dry-cleaner’s is closed only on Sundays. The lady cleans and irons. The shop gets very hot in the summer because there is no air conditioning. To that, the lady says that at least she does not have to go to a sauna. She also does not need to go to a gym, she says, because she is always going up and down the stairs of the shop. She tells me she would like to win the lottery. You would think that she wants to finally get some rest and not toil day in and day out. You would be wrong. What does she want to do with the money? To refurbish her workspace! She is not the owner, and the owner does not care, but she is bothered by the state of the shop. Her son, with all the tenderness a son has for his mother, tells her that she is silly. But I understand her.

If I won a large sum of money playing lottery, I am afraid I would not solve the world’s hunger problem nor establish a foundation for those in need. I am sorry, I am not insensitive to misery and misfortune, but I would invest that money into a puppetry festival. The best plays in the world would attend. I would not have to grind my teeth in frustration because we cannot host an excellent play in Zagreb because it is “too expensive.” What do you mean “too expensive”??? It is extraordinary!!! We would invest in marketing, bring audiences to the plays, and plays to the audiences, and everyone would see what puppetry is and what it can do.

But enough dreaming. If Hans Böhm could do it, so can we. Thanks to his resourcefulness, that ordinary young man from a small Czech village managed to survive both the war and the even more complicated post-war reality. In addition to Hans Böhm’s strength, the play clearly shows the power of puppetry and humorously conveys a serious saga about an individual experiencing difficult times, using puppets and people, where the puppets are transformed into props, props into characters, and people and puppets are constantly interacting.

The second anti-war play, very humorously and with seemingly cheerful playfulness, does not hesitate to ask difficult questions about war and pacifism, without imposing answers, and all with the help of several coats that come to life in the hands of skilled actors and animators.

The puppet is sometimes unaware that it is a puppet and that its five spirits are five animators who give life to its body, emotions, and imagination. The puppeteers, who know that even a seemingly inanimate object – the puppet – has a soul, are well aware that animals have one too and can very movingly portray the feelings of animals mistreated in the circus by people.

In puppet theatre, an ordinary rope has the power to portray a myth full of magic and passion that tells the story of the supernatural love between Medea and Jason and their terrifying, all-destroying hatred. In puppet theatre, bubbles are not only ordinary soap bubbles that instantly burst into nothing; instead, combined with the unorthodox shadow theatre, they have the power to tell a tender story in a calm, beautiful and meditative way. An ordinary piece of modelling clay has the power to enchant not only one-year-olds targeted by the play, but also their older brothers and sisters, young parents, older grandparents, audiences new to the theatre and hardened, sometimes cynical theatre processionals. The young ones will also happily look at the different, very impressive luminous objects and search for the missing little socks. Older children and all of us adults will see bullying being addressed more directly with puppets than with all the recordings of real events.

All children, young and old, will see how to be satisfied with one’s bodies that are too long and legs that are too short, how to transform from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. They plays will show us that little is big and give us hope that it is possible to meet the prince and defeat Evil Disagreement. If not in life, then at least in the theatre.

Livija Kroflin, PhD, Associate Professor, the Editor of the official PIF program