1rst PuppetPlays dramaturgical experimentation laboratory

1rst PuppetPlays dramaturgical experimentation laboratory

Note of intent

by Alban Thierry, Cie Zouak (France)


Laboratory from 17 May to 27 May 2020 organised by PuppetPlays, led by Alban Thierry of the Zouak company (France) and Romain Duverne of Images et mouvements (France), in collaboration with Didier Plassard, PuppetPlays’ Principal Investigator. The research and production are carried out by students from the Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3.

Our choice is the repertoire of the Théâtre de la Foire in the first part of the 18th century, a repertoire mainly composed of parodies. These plays were performed in Paris in the fairgrounds of the Foire Saint-Germain and the Foire Saint-Laurent as well as at the Opéra Comique. The authors of the selected plays and extracts are Alexis Piron, Alain-René Lesage, Louis Fuzelier, Jacques-Philippe d'Orneval, Denis Carolet and Antoine de La Motte. Among this corpus of the theatre of the Fair, we focus on two types of texts:


The harangues or boniments

In these prologues to the plays, an actor called the compère and the main puppet (Polichinelle) engage in dialogue and stimulate the audience's attention.

- A harangue pronounced by Polichinelle before the performance of La Grand-mère amoureuse, a Parodie of Atys, by Fuzelier, Lesage and d'Orneval, performed at the Foire Saint-Germain in 1726.

- A dialogue between Polichinelle and the compère, opening Denis Carolet's play for puppets Atys travesti, which constitutes an ironic response to the "compliments" usually used at this time at the Comédie-Française and the Comédie Italienne. This parody of the original Atys by Quinault and Lully,was performed at the Foire Saint-Germain in 1736.

- A dialogue between Polichinelle and the compère preceding the play L'Ombre du Cocher Poète, a prologue to Pierrot-Romulus by Lesage. These two plays mixed with vaudevilles were performed by the Marionnettes étrangères at the Foire Saint-Germain in 1722. 


Extracts from different plays

- Scene 3 of Atys travesti (a vaudeville play by Carolet) that follows the dialogue between the compère and Polichinelle. This scene between Marguerite and Polichinelle is a spoken and sung love dialogue.

- Scene 4, Act 3 from Arlequin-Deucalion by Piron. This play is a monologue in 3 acts performed at the Opéra comique in 1722. It is full of dramaturgical tricks to get around the ban on performing dialogue plays because of the monopoly granted to the Comédie-Française. It is a scene between Harlequin (actor) and Polichinelle (puppet). Harlequin, saved from the water thanks to a barrel, discovers a gibbering Polichinelle inside it.


Two puppet techniques were used at that time : rod-marionettes and glove-puppets.


This laboratory is not an attempt of a historical reconstruction. It aims at exploring and staging a certain type of puppet theatre by combining practice with the give-and-take around the work table.

Lines of work :

- Dramaturgy in a context of parody.

- The puppet as a theatrical tool.

- Archetypal characters such as Polichinelle and Harlequin.

- The plot, the space and the actor/puppet relationship.

- The comic devices.


For the scenes with rod-marionettes, we will work with a simple puppet booth, which allows a more direct relationship with the puppet (who remains on the stage).

For the scenes with glove-puppets, we will keep the possibility of using the puppet booth, but we will focus on the relationship between the actor (Harlequin) and the puppet (Polichinelle), which comes out of a barrel and is manipulated on sight.


Table work on the texts will be led in collaboration with researchers proposed by PuppetPlays.

Then comes the practical work:

- Specific training and exercises for the puppeteer: breath, body, voice, rhythms and puppet manipulation.

- Acting and improvising, choice of interpretation, staging work, rehearsals, preparation of the video-recording.

- Video-recording of the work for the PuppetPlays digital platform (6 min maximum for each video-clip).

Working on these opera parodies is a great opportunity to better understand both this popular heritage and the conditions of performance under the Ancien Régime. Considered at that time as minor works created on the fringe of the official theatres (the Royal Academy of Music and the Comédie-Française), these plays relied on several levels of interpretation by the audience.


At that time, the authors wrote under constraint, always trying to get around the monopolies granted to the royal theatres. Using various dramaturgical stratagems, they nevertheless developed a free and creative speech that could challenge the established order.

Fairground theatres with puppets is an important part of our cultural heritage and of our theatre tradition. They are one of the foundations of French popular theatre, of our puppet techniques and are the source of our way of acting and manipulating. By developing parodies, satires, caricatures and mockeries towards the established power, this kind of plays are really part of what we call French humour, which is sometimes criticised.


ZOUAK Company - Alban Thierry (France)

With thirty years of existence and more than twenty creations to its credit, the ZOUAK company bears a living heritage of puppetry. Its founder, Alban Thierry, a graduate of the first class of ESNAM (École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette) in Charleville-Mézières (France), proposes a contemporary and local theatre inspired both by popular satire and fairground theatre.

The shows range from the street to the stage. These shows are often festive and can be performed for young and old alike.

The company performs a very wide range of shows and regularly proposes specific interventions, both educational and artistic: intervention theatre, parade, carnival, object theatre, glove-puppets, rod-marionettes, giant puppets, fairground theatre, cabaret shows, etc.

The Zouak company continues its research on the actor-manipulator in relationship with the puppet, often outside the puppet-booth and interacting with audience.

"Alban Thierry, actor-puppeteer, has the almost magical ability to melt the puppet showman into his doll and to appeal, in a subtle way, to a conquered audience."

With the creations Le petit Tailleur (pour l'opéra), Jaja (a show about Alfred Jarry) and Crépuscule des temps anciens (a Franco-Burkinabé show), the company advocates an artistic practice open to the world with the desire to diversify its artistic experiences.




Last updated : 06/04/2022