Puppets play an integral role in street theatre; serving to add a touch of the unreal to otherwise very real environs. Often, the puppet blends in effortlessly with its surroundings, and is completely in its element as the play unfolds. Gaily coloured, absurd-looking, yet lovable and eye-catching, puppets trace their origins into the distant past: with the origins of performance, itself.
Originally employed to serve ritualistic purposes [like drama itself, was] puppets were used ceremonially in rituals, and also found their place during celebrations like carnivals and masquerades.
Traditional Christian drama, to which a great deal of modern world theatre can still be attributed, also made use of puppets.
Employed in the most minimal ways, puppets serve to enrich a character and help actors play their roles convincingly.
Often,puppets are central to the action ensuing in the play; in fact, they serve to further the plot and may even highlight little quirks a character may have, for the audience’s benefit!
Even though they seem unreal and may even be larger than life sometimes, puppets are essentially what directors call a “Reality Tool”. They work in tandem with a host of factors in their surroundings to interpret the drama.
While a puppet walking down a crowded street might arouse a certain element of drama all by itself and will itself be a crowd-puller,in a street play, puppets usually exist where a story does.In fact,they are crucial to the story; serving to enrich and maximize it! Thus, most puppetry, even during a street play, involves storytelling.
Over the years, puppetry has evolved to gain a more contemporary status, despite its origins in popular and folk art forms.Contemporary thought uses puppets to speak to adult audiences, with an adult voice, often on issues of adult and experimental interest. Such is the transition that puppetry has made from a folk art-form to the high-art tradition of actor’s theatre.
In it’s tireless crusading for the rights of the down-trodden, street theatre brings puppets back to where they originally belong: in the minds and hearts of the masses who love them the most, albeit in a renewed form. With informed stories to tell.
–Jaiwantika Dutta Dhupkar