Puppeteers’ Chrudim: A festival for puppetry fans and troupes from all around the Czech Republic

Puppeteers’ Chrudim (Loutkářská Chrudim), one of the longest-running puppetry festivals in the world, is just around the corner. Held in the town of Chrudim, east of Prague it begins next week for the 65th time.

Ahead of the event I spoke to one of the Klára Konopásková – one of the organisers, asking about what was planned as well as the festival’s history.

“The tradition of the puppet festival dates back to 1951. The first idea of it was born at Jiráskův Hrnov which is a festival of Czech amateur theatres and it was there that puppeteers decided that they would like to have their own showcase. Now it is in the 65th year.”

It begins with a famous parade… is that an important aspect of the festival and what is the experience like?

“That’s right, that is part of the tradition and you have a parade with giant puppets. This year the parade will be led by a giant puppet of Kašpárek, the jester, followed by angels and devils. It is being organised by puppeteers from Poland. The parade leads through the town to the main venue, behind which there will also be other performances and a concert. During the whole festival there will be many events there for both kids and adults. Certainly, the festival brings Chrudim to life.”

There are many different aspects, certainly: there are performances indoors and in plein air, for both children and adults, both amateur and professional… how many troupes are taking part?

“The festival has three parts: the first is a showcase of the most interesting amateur productions from the last year and this year there will be 14 of those. The second part is six days of workshops in which 200 people are registered as participants. They will learn to improve their puppeteering techniques and stage design, art direction and so on.”

Let me ask you about Creaturas Particulare and Roberto White: these are puppets that are unusual in how they are produced and the materials are made from, aren’t they?

“Mr White is a major star at the festival this year, he travels a lot and uses everyday objects – from ping pong balls to wrapping paper to create puppets and to tell funny stores. He is from Argentina and will be teaching a workshop this year on his technique. Part of his style is using his hands or head and other parts of the body in acting.”

What about Czech ensembles who are taking part? I suppose one of the better known is Buchty a Loutky…

“They will be performing the theatre version of their film ‘Little Man’. Other troupes include professional groups like Naivní divadlo from Liberec. There are various and many different companies from all around the Czech Republic, some with productions based on Charles IV (on the 700th anniversary of his birth) or one which is a socio-political horror.”

That’s really the strength of the whole festival, isn’t it? To see many different genres and approaches at one site.

“That’s right. Different ways of telling stories, from classic narrative forms, to musical productions, to more visual performances and productions.”