Estonian director. Rein Agur was one of the leading personalities after World War II of the Estonian puppet theatre world. As a representative of the bourgeoisie (born into a family of teachers), in 1941-1946 and 1952-1954, Agur was exiled to Tomsk (Siberia). Unable for political reasons to enter Tartu University, he went to the Leningrad Institute of Theatre, Music, and Cinema under professor Mikhail Korolev, graduating in 1963 with a puppet theatre actor diploma. From 1963 Agur worked at the Eesti Riiklik Nukuteater (Estonian State Puppet Theatre) as an assistant director, then, in 1966-1981 and 1992-1994, as a director, and in 1981-1992 as the artistic director. Since 1994, Agur has worked as a freelance.
In his first production (Grebe, the Duckling, 1966), Rein Agur mixed masks and mime together with puppetry. In the years that followed, he developed the visual potential of puppetry, with no hesitation in breaking the realistic laws of the physical and of scale. Using a combination of “live” actors and puppets, Agur played with a variety of meanings of such a combination, never ignoring, but rather emphasizing the essential differences between the two (A Fairy Tale About A Little Mouse, 1970; Kaval-Ants ja Vanapagan Tricky Ants and Old Devil, 1971). His Little Red Riding Hood (1973) and Muumi’s Fairy Tale (1974) brought revolutionary ideas to the Estonian puppet stage: actors did not dominate, but rather served the puppets, both acting as elements of the stage design, the work of the scenographer Jaak Vaus.
Adept at giving new interpretation to any classical story, whether Estonian (Little Illimar, 1975; The Flakes of the Cherry-Bird, 1986), or from the world repertoire (Gulliver and Gulliver, 1987), Agur became known as an explorer of William Shakespeare’s works, which he regarded as a novel enrichment of the traditional puppet theatre. In the 1980s, he directed Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, twice in Estonia (1984, 1985) and abroad (Romeo and Juliet in Vaasa, Finland, 1983; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Chelyabinsk, Russia, 1987). Cymbeline (1998) and Henry V (2000) followed, given at the VAT-Theatre of Tallinn, where actors played with puppets made of vegetables and other natural props. The Shakespeare cycle also included The Comedy of Errors (1998) at the Moscow Gosudarstvenny Akademichesky Tsentralny Teatr Kukol imeni S.V. Obraztsova (Sergei Obraztsov State Academic Central Puppet Theatre), with the designs of Elena Lutsenko.
Rein Agur has worked in many countries, including Bulgaria, Finland, Germany and Russia. He has also directed several drama productions: The Forest Song by Lesya Ukrainka (1976) and Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (1977) at the Estonian Youth Theatre; Hercules and the Augean Stables by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1989) at the Drama School of the Estonian Music Academy.
From 1963 to 1966, he was a tutor in the puppet theatre Studio, headed by Ferdinand Veike, from whom he took over in 1968 and 1969.