It’s bonkers and brilliant! The 19th World Puppet Festival will be held in Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France this year from September 16-24. This isn’t a puppet festival like any other, held every two years, it’s been listed as one of the top 20 events in the world – and rightly so.
This fab fun factor festival is set to bring together puppet companies from all corners and every continent of the world. They will work their magic to transforms this quiet, historic town into a densely populated and highly atmospheric world capital for ‘Les Petits Comédiens’.
Only held every two years, in September, the carnival occasion has grown dramatically since its inception in 1961. It attracts not only the greatest puppet companies in the world, but also almost 170,000 spectators.
The event has developed to the point where more than 50 different venues across the town are now needed to help to host up to 250 performing companies. They’ll arrive from other parts of Europe, as well as from Brazil, Canada, Ivory Coast, India, Israel, Iran, Syria, Taiwan, Tunisia and the United States. All in all, around 25 countries will be represented.
And while the town and its inhabitants give way to a mild sense of lunacy for the nine day Festival, it is just as important to recognise that the performers regard themselves as artists. The vast majority of the shows are aimed as much at adults as at children.
The ideal choice for the one of the biggest-ever gatherings of puppets in the world, Charleville-Mézières is a centre for marionettes and puppeteers. In fact it boasts an association with the art which stretches as far back as 1941. There’s not only an International Puppet Institute, but also an Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, which now offers a three-year puppetry course to around 30 international students. Special events will also be organised for the 30th anniversary of the school this year.
In 1991, the town unveiled what has become one of its most endearing tourist attractions, ‘The Grand Marionnettiste’ – The Great Puppeteer’s Clock. Built into the façade of the Institut de la Marionette, every hour – from 10am to 9pm – it presents an episode from the legend of the Four Sons of Aymon…a heroic medieval saga linked to the geography and history of the Ardennes.
Full details of the Festival, its history, and the tradition of puppetry in the Ardennes are featured on the website www.festival-marionnette.com.