Swedish theatre based in Stockholm, founded in 1958 by Michael Meschke with the financial support of the Stockholm City Council. Marionetteatern was a predecessor of the Swedish children’s theatre movement that would flourish in the 1970s. Since its founding, Marionetteatern has had a close relationship with Stockholm, the capital, with national financial support for a period during the 1990s. Since 2003, the Marionetteatern has been part of Stockholm City Theatre, Scandinavia’s largest theatre with 500,000 visitors a year and several larger and smaller stages and annexes.
Marionetteatern was the first permanent site puppet theatre of high artistic standard in Sweden. It answered the needs of the times by providing a theatre that was rich in imagery, music and text. The theatre’s repertoire catered for both child and adult audiences, and included classics of European modernism and the contemporary art of the period following World War II. Alongside literary classics for children, such as A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, plays by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Bertolt Brecht and Georg Büchner were presented for an adult audience in imaginative productions using a variety of different puppet theatre techniques. Ubu Roi (King Ubu) by Alfred Jarry, using large, flat figures and body masks, brought the theatre to prominence in 1964. The production toured internationally and was revived in the 1980s for new performances at international festivals.
Michael Meschke began to research and work intensively with Asian puppet traditions, including Japanese Bunraku, and was at the same time often called upon to teach courses on puppet theatre. Sophocles’ Antigone became the first example of a modified or modernized Bunraku-inspired production when it premiered in 1977. Thereafter, the tradition of visible puppeteers completely took over Swedish puppet theatre during the following decade, influencing other freethinking puppet theatres across Europe.
During the 1980s, Marionetteatern underwent both organizational reconstructions and changes of address, but was able to maintain its international status through long and extensive touring. Marionetteatern’s present artistic director (since 1999), Helena Nilsson, began her career as an apprentice at the theatre in the 1980s and took part in some of the decade’s greatest artistic successes: August Strindberg’s Spöksonaten (The Ghost Sonata), for example, directed by the American puppeteer Roman Paska. High literary quality, a child’s perspective, an inventive combination of acting, puppetry and stage design have been Helena Nilsson’s signature as leader of the present Marionetteatern, which brought manga, shadow play, projections, masks and acting of high quality to the puppet stage.
Through their educational activities such as Meet the puppets!, exhibitions and travelling workshops, Marionetteatern introduces audience members to the traditions and techniques of puppet theatre. The Marionettmuseet (Puppet Museum) that for many years was housed close to the theatre is now part of the collection of the Swedish Theatre Museum.