Cannes is not only the film festival city, puppets shine on the hills over the Mediterranean sea as the Arketal company settled there for a while. Creating some dreaming children’s shows from 7 to 77 years old still arty and French literature lovers such as the new creation around La Fontaine’s Fables. Creative meeting with Sylvie Osman, co–creator of the company, puppeteer and producer.
Let’s go back to the roots, you are now settled in Cannes after a great number of years in Mougins and a tremendous hesitation for Marseille or Manosque, do have you something with M cities?
(Smile) Originally, we just out from school with Greta Bruggeman and François Boulay, and looking for supports, coaches. It was François Boulay who went and met Centre National des Marionnettes of Paris which warned that « something » was on its way in the South on the French Riviera. So after going round and round from Marseille to Manosque we settled in a former gardener house in Mougins. A completely natural place on the hills, so nice and useful. A puppet company needs inspiration but most of all space to build and experiment their new creations and it was magnificent to do so in a rather idyllic near secondary school and cultural structure CEC Campelières with the warm welcome from teachers. It was just the perfect start to build a company of the mixed names of our beloved masters.
Oh! it was an important intense three-month-long education. Essential as it was a high drastic decision, we left behindour previous life for this adventure and as we met great teachers like the director Margareta Niculescu, head of Tandarica theatre, Jan Dvořák, great puppeteer who introduced us to practical experience, Mickael Meshke, motion initiator with mime background. Rumanian roots, Czech pupptets, Swedish company, this international panorama matched totally with our multicultural puppet company with Belgian, Monegasque, Parisian origins. (Smile). Yes, just after landed at CEC Campelières, we went on tour with Mickael Meshke, from Sweden, to Thailand with stops in Greece, East Germany, Paris at Maison des Cultures du Monde. We spend 2 years with the Ramayana epic, an Indian project in an international team, it was like hitting an arty passport. Coming back « home » we had the sweet surprise : the first edition of an international festival in Mougins. It couldn’t be better! A new confrontation with contemporary puppets theaterwith top notch global and national companies. It was a great influence for Greta and her building material and for myself and the production..
First it is an expression matter, a wish to move, to drive. Body must serve the puppet, and the puppeteer passes on to the creature, it’s a gift from fresh to material. I always knew I was in the place that had to be mine. As a puppeteer, when I opened the curtains, the driving force is on and a intense joy explodes, playing with heart, soul, mind, body for one character. But for producer work, it took a long time, the show « les Gens Légers » about the Shoah triggered something in my mind as it was a family issue. I pushed forward bodies of relatives I’ll never meet…
How could you know which voice and behavior give to a puppet?
Well it’s like a mask-factor, admire characters, read texts, analyse their nature, their actions but also with their manufactured faces. If there is a prominent nose, it would sound nasal. And thanks to warm-up session, I could explore medium, high-pitched or bass voice, accent, energy rush or phlegmatic rhythm. There is another choice to give a voice or not. It just needs to fit energy, moves and words of the puppet. It won’t come in one second it’s a step by step work with a lot of rehearsals in 1-2 months. It’s like meeting someone deeper and deeper then it’s an infection. It’s outstanding, each puppet is striking maybe a bit more with some adult show like Antigone or « Les Gens Légers » for their solemn themes.
Now you are on tour with a « Bestiaire allumé », a show based on La Fontaine’s fables. But you didn’t choose the most popular ones...
Yes we picked 3 fables : The Cat, the Weasel, and The Young Rabbit ; The Lion and the Gnat ; The Wolf and the Dog. And we are working with Marion Duquenne and Mathieu Bonfils, two comedians from ERAC, an acting school of Cannes in which I’ve delivered some classes for 12 years. It’s a long-term project which started about 2 years ago with some unusual contributors: pupils, teenagers, adults we met in some show case. After the show, we share some ideas around it, we feed one another, anyway, La Fontaine is a ideal breeding.
But he’s a very old author, very well-known at school but not really for pleasure…
He’s a school writer, and our first audience had great memories about it. But it’s more than recitation, it’s a fascinating heritage, and 400 years after, it’s good to discover again his background, a very harsh one, the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. And thanks to his story, we could get into History. But in the same time, he kept writing, speaking about humans, about us. And he questions existence, relationships. A human lifetime would not be enough. And his style, his verses, his dramatic writing, it’s like a theatrical piece.
You talk about writing, literature as you adapt a lot of great authors like Shakespeare or Jean Giono. Is is so important to deal with a legendary play?
The 3 fables are about animals but Greta chose to twist a bit the animal puppet in a hybrid creature between animal and human. As there are 3 productions, there are 3 puppet kinds. The Cat, the Weasel, and The Young Rabbit will be rod puppets. The Lion and the Gnat between string puppets and marottes. The Wolf and the Dog changed a lot following audience suggestions but it would be body puppets.
Over time, we tend not to stick to private trash cans (laughs). We are more open-minded. Before A Tale of Winter, I went to London, to the Globe Theatre. What a splendor! I attended an adaptation by the African company.You have to feed yourself with everything : theater, music, dance, keep being creativity thanks to curiosity. And then, when you sound the three knocks in your soul, you need to stage the show.
In France, first thought goes to Guignol in the 19th century and hand puppets motioned by puppeteer hidden in table top puppet theater. Puppets come from Antiquity with a holy celebration of world’s origins. Then, this art became popular with the Italian Pulcinella, the British Punch and Belgian string puppets and stories motivating catharsis. But also in Asia: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai creatures play with water or rod puppets while in Africa, there is a
mystical origin. But things change with body puppets where the puppeteer makes his comedian work creating his whole space like a complete universe. But also dancers, circus staff, comedians, there’s a complete crossing of arty sensitivity up there. Puppet is still alive, and is still thrilling for young and general audience, it doesn’t pass away, it’s a fresh renewal.
On tour until May : Fos sur Mer (13) on November- Draguignan (83) on January- Taverny (95) on February-Nice(06) on May.
Let’s hang out together !