Norwegian playwright. As a child, Henrik Ibsen spent a lot of time with puppets; however, scholars disagree as to what kind of puppetry this might have been. Ibsen was given lessons in drawing and painting, and his sister Hedvig mentioned how he used his talents to paint and cut cardboard figures and scenery which he set up in dramatic situations. His early design work on productions for the Det norske Theater in Bergen (not to be confused with Det Norske Teatret in Oslo) from 1851 to 1857 shows traces of his youthful handiwork in model (miniature) theatres.
According to a woman he knew, Ibsen also performed marionette shows. She describes a performance at the family farm outside Skien. Children in the neighbourhood would gather to watch his shows about the adventures of the beautiful Isabella of Spain who was abducted by a Moor and who was rescued by the knight Fernando.
Henrik Ibsen apparently inherited his interest for puppets from his mother, who would perform with marionettes when the Ibsen family gave parties. When Ibsen, in his play Byggmester Solness (The Master Builder), describes Aline Solness’ sorrow for her “nine lovely dolls” which were burned, many people think it is an allusion to and criticism of his mother for never quite being able to give up her childish games. Nevertheless, eyewitnesses describe how Ibsen secretly enjoyed the Kasper theatre that was performed on the streets in Copenhagen.
In Norway, adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s plays have been popular as puppet productions. Riksteatret puppet ensemble played Peer Gynt in 1978 and, in 1997, the company produced a new version of the play. The freelance group, Teater Fusentast, performed the same play in a Punch and Judy style in 1992. In 1994, Oslo Nye Dukketeatret created a puppet production version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.
- Helgesen, Anne Margrethe. Ibsen og figurteatret. Figurteatret og Ibsen [Ibsen and Figure Theatre. Figure Theatre and Ibsen]. UNIMA Norge, 2005.
- Schervig, Ellen. Henrik Ibsens dukketeater – fantasi og magi [Henrik Ibsen’s Puppet Theatre – Fantasy and Magic]. Skien, 1995.