Making and Manipulating Marionettes

This superb publication has been well worth waiting for. It is particularly notable for details of designs and stringing for trick figures. There are 132 colour photos of fine examples from the work of Paul Doran, Gren Middleton, John Roberts, Gordon Staight, John Wright, and the author, plus items from the collection of the Puppet Centre in London. Together they represent a wide variety of puppet and performance styles and along with the hundreds of other illustrations allow easy access by non-English readers. There are chapters on design, materials and methods, construction and costume, control and manipulation, animals, specialised stringing, and specialised designs. The last three of these chapters account for half of the book. Old themes and principles have been updated and the sections on methods and materials include much new information, extra tips, some pertinent anecdotes, and a variety of new materials. Many of the traditional tricks and transformations have been included with a lot of new ideas; I particularly like the puppet that peels and eats a banana. Some of the trick figures, for example the football supporter who becomes a skeleton when he gets so excited and jumps out of his skin, are given a series of photographs showing the different stages of transformation. Needless to say in that example the skeleton can go into a dismembering routine. My only quibble with this generous work concerns the brief introductory chapter reviewing the marionette tradition. It begins with a decent historical summary covering early beginnings up to the end of the 19th century but the 20th century, which has perhaps seen the greatest development of the marionette, is dismissed in this one sentence: "Despite the impact of the arrival of the cinema and then television, throughout the past century there has been a revival of puppet theatre in general and even today there remain examples of the influence of the marionette on human dance-drama." No mention at all of the many buildings specifically set up as marionette theatres (even in Britain) or of the many innovations in this field, although it must be said that looking through the book, especially the excellent photographs, it is obvious that the marionette is not only alive and well, but flourishing. The book is hard bound with 192 pages in a beautiful wrapper sporting John Roberts' Pied Piper.

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