23 March 2015

Looking back on 'World Puppetry Day' 2015

Czech theatre director and professor, Josef Krofta

This years 'World Puppetry Day' fell on Saturday 21 March. It was a day of mixed emotions, as we had just lost one of our world's true puppet legacies, Josef Krofta and heard the news, last week, of a devastating fire at the Battersea Arts Centre, home to the 'British Puppet Centre' in London.

Krofta was probably best known for his years of innovative work as artistic director of the Drak Theatre in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic. I personally had the incredible opportunity of studying with him at the Battersea Arts Centre in London in 1987, where together with Penny Francis and Henryk Jurkowski, he lead a course in puppetry and storytelling, which was the great inspirational period of my life. It was there, that I was first exposed to the work of Bruno Bettelheim's 'The Uses of Enchantment - The meaning and importance of fairy tales'. This is life changing literature for any aspiring puppeteer.

Krofta taught us the power of the object and it's role in bring a story to life. We saw the film of his most powerful theatre piece 'The Dragon' by Russian playwright, Evgeny Shvarts in 1944. This remarkable work was first seen as subversive production in the political climate of post-war Russia. Krofta depicted the power as radiating 'follow-spots' the feeling that the performance was taking place in a concentration camp, with even the actors dressed in the typical black uniform of the Gestapo.

Besides this most memorable work, we also remember Krofta for his other work with Drak including Circus Unikum, Petruška, Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio. May he rest in peace.

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