EFFE Laureate - Festival of Wonder

29 August, 2017

Location: Silkeborg, Denmark
Director: Ulla Dengsoe
Dates: 2017/11/09 – 2017/11/12
Art Disciplines: Puppetry, Theatre
Find out more about the festivals on their EFFE Profile and the Festival of Wonder website.

One of the most upmarket districts of Jutland is a surprising place to find Denmark's main festival of puppetry – or, to give an idea of the full ambition of the programme, of puppet, object and visual theatre. Yet for five days every odd-numbered year Silkeborg is full of puppets, from the tiny to the enormous – this year one so big it has to move using hydraulic lifts (no strings attached – I was itching to write that!).

Ulla Dengsoe, the long term Artistic Director, says that Silkeborg has many festivals “but we are the only international one,” a point she emphasises when she says that the theme of the next festival, in 2019, will be, “live music and puppetry across borders.”

She urged me to put aside all my preconceptions about what a puppetry festival would be like. Yes, there are still small events for children and little figures in boxes but they are now almost curiosities as live humans have joined the other creatures. It is a process similar to that in the film industry, where CGI animation mingles with the screen stars. There are shows too where the subject matter is clearly adult in its artistic content and complexity. Then there is object theatre which, in turn, has developed as a genre where the characters are not traditional humanoids. Ulla gives as an example a performance from South America in which two fingers were the main characters, moving with a dancer who was lying on the floor making shapes with body and clothes.

Ulla has watched the boundaries of puppetry develop massively over the last thirty years and seen the form growing, “largely through interaction – with dancers, musicians, video, live actors. Even twenty years ago the puppeteers were always hidden; now they are often part of the action as actors themselves. And it's hard to name an art form that doesn't occur.” There are bicycles, circus acts, horses – and the vast blue Moondog in its own building and its own orchestra.

“There's always something new, something I've never seen before. Whatever the means, though,” says Ulla, “the puppeteers have to make characters you believe in.”  



By Simon Mundy for EFA