The Power of Puppetry surprises Assam

August 2009 -

Few people know that the population of this corner of India lives in constant fear of attacks and that the roads are lined with military personnel to control the political situation. Luckily, the village of Rampur is an oasis of peace. In a theatre camp made of bamboo, Evelien Pullens (the Netherlands) gives workshops about creative puppetry and visual theatre: from finger puppets to large objects. The final performance, Bijuli, will tour Assam and southern India.

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Scene from Bijuli. (Photo: Stijn Decorte)

Akshara, director and head of a theatre school in South India, responds: "This production which was rich in imagination was a welcome sight. The fact that your production, mounted with minimum physical resources, was powerful enough to hold the audience here spell bound for an hour (even when the audience did NOT understand any spoken word in it) is a proof for its immense theatrical strength."

The young actors, who scarcely speak English, all speak their own local language during the performance, as a result of which they cannot understand each other and the audience cannot understand them. Evelien challenged the new puppeteers to view their own culture from a different perspective and to portray it with puppets they make themselves using local resources like coconut, reed, the bark of the areca nut palm and burlap. In imagery, movement and music, often based on their own magnificent folklore, they speak of their fears and desires.

One of the participants, Moon Joiti Goswami, formulated it perfectly: "Puppetry is a flow of energy. We bring the power from our body with concentration and feeling to the puppet. It develops concentration of power. In such a way we can use this concentration and power in our daily life to succeed."

A second tour of Bijuli was scheduled from 26 June to 20 July 2009 in Assam. Evelien Pullens and Berith Danse, artistic director of the Theatre Embassy, will travel late in August 2009 to Rampur to further assist the young theatre-makers.