Australian puppeteer, living and working in the Netherlands. Neville Tranter studied theatre while also working with Billbar Puppet Theatre (founded by Barbara and Bill Turnbull in Toowoomba, Queensland that performed traditional puppetry) where he learnt to manipulate and create his own puppets. Having completed his training with the American director Robert Gist in Queensland in 1976, Tranter established his own company, Stuffed Puppet Theatre. In 1978, he was invited to participate in the Amsterdam Festival of Fools, after which he moved permanently to the Netherlands.
This was the beginning of his career as a solo puppeteer performing for adult audiences. Tranter performs almost always with life-size puppets. He is visible as manipulator, mostly as an opponent to his puppets. Essential in his work is the relationship between himself and the characters he manipulates. He brings them to life in such a way that he is hardly able to control them. The relationship between puppeteer and puppet is ambivalent; he animates his puppets with humour, tenderness, almost love, but at the same time he confronts them with cruel games. This ambivalent relationship is one of the more distinct characteristics that run through Tranter’s work.
If his own past was his source of inspiration at the beginning of his career, from 1990 on Tranter presented himself more and more as an actor: actor, manipulator and puppet became equal. He creates a magical world in which man and puppet possess the same degree of reality. Tranter is drawn to texts and themes from classical theatre including Macbeth, Kaspar Hauser, Salome, Molière, and, in 1999, Frankenstein. In 2003, he produced Schicklgruber alias Hitler, a corrosive play that focuses on a set of characters from Hitler’s regime.
In 2009, Neville Tranter returned to a more “traditional” approach to puppet theatre with Punch & Judy in Afghanistan, wherein none other than Osama Bin Laden plays the principal role. In conjunction with Music Theatre, Hollands Diep Dordrecht, and Opera Die Freitagsacademie Bern, Tranter created three operas. In 2012, the children’s opera, The House that Sings, is planned in Paris.
Thanks to his astonishing figures, sophisticated lighting, music, and advanced technology, Neville Tranter has built an audience for adult puppet theatre. His relationship to the viewer and the puppet has steadily increased over the years. Next to his importance as puppeteer, his role as coach for young puppeteers in a master/pupil relationship is steadily growing, which is very important in a country that does not yet possess a puppetry training school.
- Birmant, Julie. “L’acteur, manipulateur et manipulé” [The Actor, Manipulator and Manipulated]. Interview with Neville Tranter. Alternatives théâtrales. Nos. 65-66: Le théâtre dédouble. Bruxelles [Brussels]: Institut international de la marionnette, 2000.
- Contamin, Laurent. “Rencontre avec Neville Tranter” [Meeting with Neville Tranter]. [Pro]vocations marionnettiques. Collective work “Enjeux”. Strasbourg: Théâtre Jeune Public, 2004.