Hungarian painter, puppeteer, puppet designer and theatre director. István Árpád Rév completed his studies in graphic arts at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Arts Academy of Düsseldorf, Germany) in 1921. Returning to Hungary, Rév worked in advertising, then established a workshop for toys and furniture and presented his works of graphic art and sculpture in collective exhibitions.
In 1941 he opened the first permanent puppet theatre in Hungary, the Nemzeti Bábszínjáték (National Puppet Theatre), where he served as its artistic and financial director, literary manager, designer and, with his wife, puppet builder. After several experiments in his studio, he perfected a special manipulation technique called “keyboard” or lever-operated puppetry that adapted the keyboard mechanism developed by Géza Blattner for marionettes to a rod puppet. Thus, Rév’s highly mechanized puppets were capable of delicate and complex movements, particularly of the eyes and the mouth, all of which were accentuated by the finesse of the hands and the natural proportions. These half grotesque, half folkloric figures were dressed in richly decorated costumes corresponding to the ideal of beauty of the 1940s.
The theatre’s first and main success was the production Toldi, based on the epic poem by János Arany, presented March 17, 1941 lasting 756 performances. Until 1945, the Nemzeti Bábszínjáték presented ten plays for adults and six for children, including Úrhatnám szolgáló (La serva padrona/The Servant Turned Mistress) by Pergolesi, A patikus (Lo speziale/The Apothecary, 1942) by Joseph Haydn, cabaret shows, comedy reviews such as Ügyvéd és férj (Maître Bolbec et son mari/Mrs Bolbec, Attorney, and her Husband, 1942) by Louis Verneuil, as well as popular tales and farces by Hungarian authors of the 1940s.
The Nemzeti Bábszínjáték was a theatre of diminutive actors and dedicated to this model. This was both its charm and its limitation.
- Balogh, Géza. “Vásári és művészi bábjáték” [Fairground and Art Puppetry]. Magyar színháztörténet, 1920-1949 [History of Hungarian Theatre, 1920-1949]. Eds. György Székely and Tamás Bécsy. Budapest, 2005.
- Belitska-Scholz, Hedvig. Vásári és művészi bábjáték Magyarországon [Fairground and Art Puppetry in Hungary]. Tihany, 1974.