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Puppets Up! Fun for all the family at international marionette festival
The international puppet extravaganza Jem Marionette Festival (JEM) returns to Brussels for its sixth edition with 30 shows from 12 countries staged over five weekends from 7 May to 6 June.
Shadow, paper, string or rod, the puppets will delight not only children with classic stories such as Pinocchio (performed once in English and once in Slovenian) plus experimental pieces like To Have or Not Have, a hybrid performance from the Netherlands involving objects on a table accompanied by music and movement.
There are two last-minute additions to the programme. Ukrainian puppet company There’s Three has travelled to Brussels to present the interactive show Little Duck. Proceeds from its two performances will benefit the International Union of the Puppet in Ukraine. And two free Korean shows will be performed during the last weekend of the festival.
Many of the shows are in English, although some are without dialogue and others are performed in Czech, French, Italian and Slovenian. Festival director Dimitri Jageneau assures audiences that children will be able to follow the shows regardless of the language.
“There’s also a chance to discover another imaginary of objects because puppetry and puppets is not only the glove puppet, it’s different ways of thinking and doing, playing with actors and objects. It’s not just string puppets, the idea is to open the vision of the audience, young and old,” he says.
Most shows are performed at the Théâtre Royal du Peruchet, which has been staging puppetry in Brussels since 1929. The home of an international puppet museum since 1938, it’s dedicated to making Brussels the standard bearer of contemporary creation in the puppetry arts, adds Jageneau.
And the museum played its own small role in promoting diplomatic relations in a Europe that was suffering economic crisis and political extremism in the 1930s.
“It’s odd to think that this museum was the beginning historically of the first international puppet museum in the 20th century. In 1938, war was growing and there was a problematic situation in Spain, Germany was under the Nazi vision and Mussolini was in power in Italy. Yet Italy and Germany happened to be very important countries for puppetry and the museum chose to display puppets from those countries because they had the idea of peace and developing dialogues between different cultures of puppets.”
All shows are suitable for children from the age of four or five unless otherwise indicated.
Jem Marionette Festival
7 May to 6 June
Le Théâtre Royal de Peruchet
Avenue de la Forêt (Ixelles)