French theatre company specializing in giant puppets, founded in 1979 by Jean-Luc Courcoult and resident in Nantes in the Aix-en-Provence region since 1989. This adventurous street theatre troupe presents spectacular programmes, some no more than fifteen minutes, for example, La Demi-Finale de Waterclash (The Semi-Final of Waterclash, 1984). Or programmes that span several days, like Royale de Luxe’s Spectacle de trois jours ou comment raconter une histoire à une ville (A Three-Day Show, or How to Tell a Story to a Town, 1984); and La Visite du sultan des Indes sur son éléphant à voyager dans le temps (The Visit of the Sultan of the Indies on his Time-travelling Elephant, 2005).
The company sometimes addresses the public without their being aware of it, as in Les Embouteillages (The Traffic Jams, 1993), which presented about twenty vehicles moving in a city at rush hour. Or they can recreate, as in Cargo 92, an entire street as a travelling ship. The company is particularly famous for Le Géant tombé du ciel (The Giant who Fell from the Sky, 1993), a show inspired by the adventures of Gulliver, in which machines were used to move and give breath to a nine-metre figure hung on mobile scaffolding, and where the thousands of spectators found themselves transformed into Lilliputians. François Delarozière, artist-engineer, is the inventor of the machinery.
Royal de Luxe plays with the inversion of scale and the contrast between the dimensions. The puppets used may be five to seven times bigger than the manipulators who compensate for their height with various structures, ropes, and highly sophisticated pulley systems. In Les Chasseurs de Giraffe (The Giraffe Hunters, 2000), the giraffe, ten metres high, was manipulated by almost eighty technicians. In these gigantic “happenings”, the performers are specialist actors and the manipulation, which resembles the actions of a sailor with his ropes as much as those of a puppeteer, contributes to the emotional impact: when the “book” of La Véritable Histoire de France (The True History of France, 1990-1992) was opened, the audience saw a ship being formed, its masts unfolding and rising up, the performers composing an image gradually coming into view.
The company has created projects on the five continents, all the while refining the idea of a collective theatre that gathers together the inhabitants of a place, a town or a village in the bush, as in Cameroon in 1997-1998. They created the Petits Contes nègres titre provisoire (Little Black Tales Provisional Title, 1999), a showing of African-European stories interpreted by puppets made of recycled materials. Here Royal de Luxe partly returned to traditional puppetry, mixing string, rod, and glove figures.