French company created in 1975 in Montélimar by Émilie Valantin (Lyon, 1940) and Nathalie Roques (b.1954) who, in 1984, created her own company, Compagnie du Jabron Rouge. Émilie Valantin, at first a Spanish teacher, was trained as a puppeteer by Robert Bordenave and Mireille Antoine. Faithful to traditional techniques (glove puppets, rod marionettes French: marionnettes à tringles), Valantin uses virtuosity to serve incisive texts aimed mostly at adults. Fond of literary works with a rebellious spirit, she presents with the same exactness classical plays, popular tales, forgotten poets, and living authors.
The company’s production of Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (Ariadne and Bluebeard, 1978) by Maurice Maeterlinck won the Golden Guignol Award at the Lyon Festival. This was followed by Mélanpous (Melanopus, 1981), based on an ancient Greek story; Gayant, histoire secrète d’un géant (Gayant, the Secret Story of a Giant, 1984); Le Vicomte pourfendu (The Cloven Viscount, 1991) by Italo Calvino. The Théâtre du Fust made a name for itself in Avignon with La Disparition de Pline (The Disappearance of Pliny, 1992), a solo show by Émilie Valantin based on a text by the philosopher Clément Rosset, and their production of J’ai gêné et je gênerai (I Have Embarrassed and I Will Embarrass, 1994), based on texts by the Russian poet of the absurd, Daniil Kharms (1905-1942), made the company well known to a wide public.
Since then, the company from the Drôme region of France is among the most celebrated and is regularly programmed at the Théâtre national de Chaillot and at the Avignon Festival where it performed Castelets en jardin (Puppet Stages/Booths in the Garden, 1995 and 1996), an updated version of a street Guignol show with texts by Heiner Müller (1929-1995), French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), Tabarin (the street name assumed by the most famous of the Parisian street charlatans, Anthoine Girard c.1584-1633) …, and a memorable Cid (1996) played by ice puppets that melted during the course of the performance. Other productions of Théâtre du Fust include Raillerie, satire, ironie et signification profonde (Mockery, Satire, Irony and Profound Meaning, 1998) by Christian-Dietrich Grabbe; Le Jardin des nains (The Garden of Dwarfs, 1999) by Benjamin Cuche; L’Homme mauvais (The Bad Man, 2001); and Merci pour elles (Thanks for Them, 2003).
The company focuses on transmitting its technical expertise, an essential mission for Émile Valantin, who is also a visiting artist at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Techniques du Théâtre (National Advanced School for Theatre Arts and Techniques) in Lyon. In 2008, the Théâtre du Fust was the first puppet company to perform at the Comédie-Française with its production of Vie du grand Dom Quichotte et du gros Sancho Pança (The Life of the Great Don Quixote and the Fat Sancho Panza).