Greek glove puppet theatre, named after its principal character. This traditional neo-Hellenic puppet theatre, performed with glove puppets on a small lit, wooden booth, under which the puppeteer is positioned creating the voices and movements of the characters, appeared in Greece in the decade 1860-1870. It probably originated in Italy – witness the names of several of its characters – and reached Greece via the Ionian Islands, where it accompanied an opera company that went bankrupt in Corfu.
The name “Fasoulis” could have originated in Bologna with the role of Fagiolino, or from the commedia dell’arte, or it may have been Greek. The figure is easily recognized by its characteristic fez ornamented with a long tassel (which revolves and can fly off and away) and its ugliness: one-eyed with a crooked nose. The character became a caricature for the typical Greek of the time with his good and his bad features. The other characters retained, in the beginning, their Italian names: Fakanapa, Arlekin (see Arlecchino), Konte-Denio, Pulcinella, Kassandro, and Colombina.
One finds here the recurrent themes of other puppet theatre: the physical beatings, the deaths, and the sudden resurrections. The plots originated in folk literature and adventure stories with their romantic themes, and stories of bandits that also played an important part in the repertoire of the karaghiozis (Modern Greek: Καραγκιόζης). The fasoulis however never quite overtook the karaghiozis, despite its growing success on city streets and at the frequent carnivals during the final decades of the 19th century. Indeed, the shadow theatre showmen often presented scenes from the fasoulis as an accompaniment to the main feature. Maridakis (Μαριδάκης) was one of the very first master puppeteers of the fasoulis form.
The Revival of the Genre
A more refined form of the fasoulis, which moved away from the Italian comic tradition, was created by Christos Konitsiotis (Χρήστος Κονιτσιώτης c.1870-1928), who also played the central character of Pascalis. The great success of his performances was due to a number of elements: skilful manipulation, a rich and varied repertoire (more than two hundred plays, among which were several improvised adaptations of Molière’s comedies and Schiller’s The Bandits), the appearance of the puppets, the linguistic talent and wit of the showman, who often used the local dialect, and his phenomenal memory. The live music accompanying the performances (clarinet, cornet and percussion) added to the total appeal. The puppets of Christos Konitsiotis have been preserved at the Peloponnesian Folklore Museum in Nafplio (Nauplia).