French puppeteer and researcher, a specialist of interfaces between electronics and theatre, Georges Lafaye was also a medical doctor. He began his theatrical career as a set designer and built models of the puppets for a farce by Paul Claudel, based on the most traditional models of puppetry. In 1943, he created Vieilles chansons françaises (Old French Songs) that he performed for a circle of friends using large rod-mounted [glove puppets], several of which with arms articulated by glass rods that were made invisible by the lighting design. His true debut was at the Alhambra (Tempo, L’Algèbre du temps, Toccatine, L’Ogre – Tempo, The Algebra of Time, Toccatina, The Ogre) where he became famous with Fait-divers (Miscellaneous News Item) about a man reading a newspaper that transforms itself into paper birds portraying the deadly news event he was reading.
In 1951, Georges Lafaye founded his company, Théâtre du Capricorne, and achieved success at the [cabaret] Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons with Le Grand Combat (The Big Fight) by Henri Michaux which brought him the flabbergasted admiration of the author: the poem, recited in the dark, was followed by a parade of visual responses (spots, forms, colours) depicting the situation. With John and Marsha (1952), Lafaye imposed his style, using the technique of [black theatre], among others. He performed at the cabaret for seven years (La Marguerite, Point à la ligne, Ni queues, ni tête, Intermezzo, Strip-tease, Étude en bleu – The Marguerite, Period New Paragraph, Neither Heads Nor Tails, Interlude, Striptease, Study in Blue) and also toured extensively (Europe, the United States, Latin America).
The remainder of his work is extremely varied: acronyms, page layouts, film credits, short film (L’Emploi du temps (Schedule) text by Raymond Queneau), light sculptures, architectural elements (the Publicis lobby), space planning (Moscow, 1962) as well as a modulation effects electronic programme (Synchropan). In 1972, he perfected an automated kinetic programme. He performed Leçons de choses (Object Lessons) for the inauguration of the Centre Georges-Pompidou (1977) then worked in musical theatre (Triptyque et mots croisés – Triptych and Crossword Puzzles) at the Opéra-comique in 1978.
Referred to as the “Einstein of Puppetry”, Georges Lafaye returned to the theatre in 1984 with Antigone by Sophocles, a work that required three years of solitary creation: the translation and adaptation of texts – recorded in order to present them in off voice – the conception and manufacture of characters (puppets two metres high, requiring two puppeteers to manipulate) and a minimalist decor in the form of a checkerboard that also served as support for photographic projections.
- Le Bolzer, Guy. La Marionnette [The Puppet]. Paris: Éditions Terrain vague, 1958.