Polish puppet company established in 1945 by Janina Kilian-Stanisławska in Samarkand (Uzbekistan, USSR) in a community of Poles deported from Poland by the Russian authorities in 1939. For its first five years the theatre was named Teatr Lalek Niebieskie Migdały (literally: Blue Almonds Puppet Theatre; figuratively: Castles in the Sky Puppet Theatre).
Repatriated in 1946, the theatre was at first run as an autonomous institution within the Teatr Groteska in Cracow (Kraków); it later moved to Warsaw (Warszawa) in 1948. Janina Kilian-Stanisławska was its artistic director until 1950; the managing directing was jointly held by stage designers Zofia Stanisławska-Howurkowa (1946-1948) and Adam Kilian. Janina Kilian-Stanisławska’s greatest success was Aleksandr Pushkin’s Bajka o rybaku i rybce (Fairy Tale About the Fisherman and the Fish, 1950), with its perfect animation techniques of the sculptured figures of Zofia Stanisławska-Howurkowa. The Lalka Theatre was nationalized in 1950.
After the short tenure of Wadysław Jarema, Jan Wilkowski became the artistic director of the theatre (1951-1969). In 1955, the Lalka Theatre relocated to its new headquarters in the Warsaw Palace of Culture and Sciences. Wilkowski, together with stage designer Adam Kilian, made Lalka an artistic legend, with: Guignol w tarapatach (Guignol in Trouble, 1956) by Wilkowski and Leon Moszczyński; Zaczarowany fortepian (The Enchanted Piano, 1957) by Jan Wilkowski; and especially O Zwyrtale muzykancie, czyli Jak się góral dostał do nieba (Zwyrtala the Musician, Or How the Tatra Highlander Got to Heaven, 1958) by Wilkowski, based on the novel by Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer.
At the turn of the 1950s and 60s, Lalka Theatre scored great success during its tour of Europe (Romania, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden), being recognized as one of the most interesting European puppet theatres. Its reputation began to decline after Wilkowski’s departure in 1969. However, under Krzysztof Rau (1989-1992) and especially Joanna Rogacka (who headed the theatre from 1994), the theatre’s leading position was reestablished.
Since the 1990s, Lalka has defined itself as a theatre for children with an ambitious repertoire of literary works that highlights the visual as well as the acting side of its productions. It has collaborated mainly with Slovak and Czech artists, notably Ondrej Spišák – Robinson Crusoe (1994), after Daniel Defoe; Rudy Dżil i jego pies (Rudy Dżil and his Dog, 1994), based on J.R.R. Tolkien; Wyprawa do wnętrza ziemi (A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1997), based on Jules Verne; Odyseja (Odysseus, 1999), based on Homer; Buratino (2004), after Leo Tolstoy; as well as Marian Pecko – Opowieść wigilijna (A Christmas Carol, 1994), after Charles Dickens; and Marek Zákostelecký – Kino Palace (2008) by Zákostelecký.
The productions of Polish directors and stage designers – such as Ewa and Mikołaj Malesza (Jan Tajemnik John the Mysterious, 1991 by Bolesław Leśmian); Zygmunt Smandzik (Orpheus, 1995, by Smandzik); Michał Walczak (Ostatni tatuś The Last Daddy, 2007 by Walczak); Lukasz Kos (Janosik. Naprawdę prawdziwa historia Janosik. The Really True Story, 2010 by Walczak) – have contributed to the reputation of Lalka as a theatre of uniquely original artistic qualities.