French company founded by Colette (Fontainebleau, 1930) and Claude Monestier (Paris, 1929 – Crosne, 2001). The Monestiers, visual artists by training, met in 1957 on the puppetry course of Marcel Temporal. They created Marionnettes des Tournemains, a company that favoured the marotte technique, in particular with Lancelot du lac (Lancelot of the Lake, 1962) and L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale, 1967). In 1970, they transformed their company into Théâtre sur le Fil (Theatre on a Thread), choosing to manipulate simple materials – cardboard (Bristol-board), cloth, corrugated cardboard – in view of their audience. Their choices gave this iconic company a totally original and innovative approach.
For the “Sur le Fil” performances, the Monestiers practised direct manipulation, operating the figures from behind. They animated the puppets along two long clothes lines stretched horizontally across the stage. Dressed in black with a black background, they cut out a sheet of white cardboard from which emerged a funny little man and his double, which was nothing but the empty cut-out space from the sheet. Multiple characters and objects cut out of paper or fabric were hung on the clotheslines as the action progressed. Their most notable creations were: Oiseau vole (Flying Bird, 1970), Garganthéâtre (1975), Château de carton (Cardboard Castle, 1983 and 1984), Une Île pour Ulysse (An Island for Ulysses, 1985).
In 1981, the Monestiers settled in Crosne, Essonne, forming a permanent troupe of five members.
Because the materials for their creations were as ephemeral as those of Yves Joly, which makes us believe they were his most direct followers, there is nothing tangible left in the archives. Nevertheless, they influenced an entire generation of puppeteers, and as the Polish historian, Lucyna Kozien, asserts: “What the Monestiers have been able to achieve is to blend two elements harmoniously that are often in opposition: fascination with form and intellectual ambition. Each new Monestier production is an invitation to participate in the creative act, to share the complicity of the puppeteers and the public and to discover a new way of looking at the world.” They imagined a taut string as a border between fantasy and reality, replacing the “castelet” (booth). The string is broken.
- Les Monestier. By Stéphane Nota. Video produced for l’Institut international de la marionnette, Charleville-Mézières, France, 2000.