It was a Saturday when I passed the Aura Bridge in the centre of Turku and noticed that many people had gathered to see the puppetry performance Lemminkäinen ja Äiti. It was great to see such a big crowd drawn in by puppet theatre, and I was reminded that Turku is the beating heart of Finnish puppetry theatre, with the Aura of Puppets as the creative brain.
Aura of Puppets (or AofP) is a network, coalition and an umbrella for contemporary puppet theatre artists. AofP promotes the works of its members and offers a wide variety of services to its professionals. They also organise two festivals in Finland; one in Helsinki called Oh My Puppets!-minifestival and the Turku International Puppetry Festival, or TIP-Fest. Currently AofP has more than 50 members who represent over half of the professional puppet theatre artists working in Finland today.
This year’s TIP-Fest will take place from the 15th until the 19th of November 2017. The festival centre is located at Manilla (the culture factory), with all but one performance being held there.
In its 8th year, TIP-Fest presents the most versatile program of contemporary Finnish puppet theatre, featuring some older performances- which have become beloved classics- as well as fresh works of art. There is even a world premiere to be seen! A wide range of techniques playfully open up the definition of what puppet theatre can be, with the variety on stage stretching from finger, hand and glove puppets, object theatre, puppets the size of humans, paper and shadow theatre as well as mask theatre, miniatures and even one unicorn –bigger than a car!
TIP-Fest opens Aura of Puppets’ to the world. In addition to the local Turku and Finnish audience there will be international festival representatives from all around the world. Several performances have been translated to English, one to Russian and many of the performances are non-verbal. At the same time, the visual form of puppetry speaks with the languages of colours, forms and emotions, waking the human mind into new realities.
So where to start in this versatile program? Here are some tips for TIP-Fest!
GORILLA GORILLA / Kuuma Ankanpoikanen
16.11. Showtime at 19:00. Non-verbal. Aurinkobaletti. Suitable for all ages 5+.
Gorilla Gorilla shows a slice of its own frutti di jungle, where each one of their more and more bold and refined civilisations rise, bloom and wither according to the unsurpassable laws of nature. This visual theatre piece brings the soft and warm experience of contemporary puppet and masque theatre to spectators.
INVISIBLE LANDS / Livsmedlet theatre
16.11. Showtime at 20:00. Non-verbal. TEHDAS Teatteri. Suitable for adults.
Surrounded by deserts, encircled by fingers. On the top of the mountain, at the root of our heel. Over the ocean, under the noses. When the war knocked on our door, we left our homes behind.
Geographical striptease. Invisible Lands is a touching journey of refugees’ dangerous escape from the place they used to call home. The human body acts as a stage for miniature figures (as seen in the main image of this article, captured by Pernilla Lindgren). A unique meeting between puppetry and choreography.
LAST DAY OF THE YEAR PAST / Kuuma Ankanpoikanen & TEHDAS Theatre
17.11. Showtime at 19:00. Non-verbal / English. Aurinkobaletti.
Last Day of the Year Past is puppet theatre for adults with grotesque and poetic beauty, soulful music and fire. These elements form a visual, intense and fragile moment between the last day of the Old Year and the first day of the New Year. The story is inspired by the Little Match Girl by H.C. Andersen and the tales of homeless people.
ASSHOLES / Kuuma Ankanpoikanen & TEHDAS Theatre
17.11. Showtime at 20:30. English. TEHDAS Teatteri. Assholes is anything but a traditional show, suitable for adults and for everyone who loves something weird and absurd.
“Wow, that’s the warmest hug I’ve had for ages!”
Directed by Antti-Juhani Manninen, Assholes is a highly comedic and musical work of art. Puppetry and dance artists Jouni Järvenpää, Jaakko Lilja and Liana Potila are bringing the whole stage alive and making it pulse like a strange, silly organism. The performance aspires to reach out and light up our shattered world, the absurd situation of our time and communication.
JOHN – ELEANOR / TEHDAS Theatre
18.11. Showtime at 20:00. English. Aurinkobaletti.
John – Eleanor’s story challenges the norms and ideals of gender, sexuality and the Middle Ages, combining perspectives and methods of medieval studies and puppet theatre.
Who and what was John / Eleanor in the eyes of his contemporaries? Did Rykener have a place in the contemporary medieval culture? John – Eleanor is a story that exposes a different perspective on the medieval era, which today is commonly perceived as having been morally strict and repressive. John – Eleanor‘s many questions and turns of events, as well as the laughter and the sadness, are- fittingly- realised in the form of puppet theatre, with puppetry itself carrying a long tradition from the medieval era.
This theatrical piece was performed during Turku’s turn as European Culture Capital, and now John – Eleanor is here again – for the very last time.