organisation

Kyogei Puppet Theatre

人形劇団京芸 (Ningyō-Gekidan Kyōgei)

Country

Japan

Japanese group of puppeteers from the Kyoto Art Theatre (Kyoto Geijutsu Gekijō) established in 1949 by professional actors from various local companies. At first the troupe was comprised of two groups, actors and puppeteers, who complemented each other and performed their shows under the same banner. But after some years, in 1960, the two groups split and the puppeteers launched out on their own with the name Ningyō-Gekidan Kyōgei (Puppet Theatre Kyogei).

The repertoire of the company is varied. Representative performances in the early years treated contemporary issues evoking, in particular, the end of World War II with plays such as Neko wa ikite iru (The Cat Is Alive) and Saakasu no zō Hanako’chan monogatari (The Story of Hanako’chan, the Circus Elephant) which takes place during American air attacks that devastated Tokyo in 1945. The troupe also mounts many plays for children such as Oshiire no bōken (Adventures in the Wardrobe), Sora kara ochite kita doragon (The Dragon that Fell from the Sky), and Momo, based on the fantasy novel by German author Michael Ende, a production that received the Award for Excellence at the National Festival of the Arts in 1994.

The troupe reduced the number of tours to kindergartens and schools, giving performances in theatres, presenting to a very large public and using the whole ensemble.  The repertoire includes adaptations and traditional Japanese stories such as Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider) but also Chinese and Western stories, classical tales and modern playlets. On occasion the troupe also works in television.

Technically, the puppet figures are in a modern style, manipulated by rods attached to the hands. The heads can move back and forth but the features are fixed. Moreover, the troupe sometimes uses techniques borrowed from shadow theatre.

(See Japan.)