The Portuguese capital of Lisbon may boast an envious calendar of cultural events that routinely attract attention from around the world, but a particular highlight at the moment is the International Festival of Puppets and Animated Forms (FIMFA), which is being staged on the 19th occasion this month.
This year’s festival is running from 9th to 26th May, showcasing the best in puppet theatre and animation from nine European countries, as well as the United States, Iran and Mozambique.
Which shows are capturing imaginations at this year’s festival?
Gracing the city over the 18 days of the festival are all forms of marionettes, ranging from giant papier-mâché creations to shadow puppets. Artists from 22 theatre companies across the globe are showing works based on themes of identity and freedom.
Among the standout productions this year are My Shadow and Me, from the UK’s Drew Colby. Described as “a cartoon created live”, it draws upon the ancient art of hand-drawn shadows to tell stories about meetings between different characters. The piece is inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem My Shadow, and focuses on the theme of how we relate to our shadows.
Meanwhile, Livsmedlet Theatre from Finland is showing a cross between puppetry and choreography in the form of Invisible Lands, described in a five-star Guardian review as “the story of refugees, represented by tiny figures, like the population of a model railway, delicate and vulnerable as they flee their war-ravaged home.”
Then, there are the Giant Puppets of Mozambique, which are giving the festival an outdoor dimension with their show O Bazar e as suas... (The Bazaar and its...), a street show consisting of enormous papier-mâché figures and percussion. The production also represents a cultural celebration of Mozambique, without shying away from such issues affecting the country as corruption and social inequalities.
“A theatre that requires the active participation of the spectator”
FIMFA director Luís Vieira commented: “Puppet theatre is a very particular theatre. As opposed to the theatre of actors, it’s a theatre that requires the active participation of the spectator.
“Puppeteers do not really have to do much – they have to create the magic of illusion, they have to create the feeling that something is going to happen. The rest is done by the public. It’s the audience that builds the show.”
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