I decided it was about time to do another book review, and for this one I have chosen Cabaret Mechanical Movement: Understanding Movement and Making Automata by Aidan Lawrence Onn and Gary Alexander. This was something I picked up at an exhibition of automata at the Perth UNIMA Congress. What is automata? Well, it’s a mechanical device that usually involves cranks and levers to create a moving object. Consider it the early version of robotics. Indeed it was often used by ancient Greeks and others to create magical experiences in spiritual settings. Automata lies at that blurry edge where it’s debatable whether or not it’s part of puppetry or just wooden toys: either way, this book can be useful for those who want a better understanding of devices and mechanics for moving their puppets. Here I’ll discuss the good and the bad of this book.
Marottes are really an unofficial term, applicable to a type of rod puppet. These puppets are operated from below, either with the puppeteer visible and/or sitting on the floor, or with the puppeteer hidden by a ‘flat’ (theatre term for false wall). This is unlike table-top puppetry, where the usual performance style is to work from behind the puppet, holding the rods at right angles to the puppeteer’s body. A very easy way to imagine a marotte is the jester’s stick, the one with the little jester head at the top of a stick. Example video at the bottom of the post.
Technically speaking, this isn’t so much a type of puppet, but a particular brand of puppet. That is, someone has built a puppet a certain way, and has made it so well-known the name they gave it has become well-known amongst the public. (Much like how a "muppet" isn’t really a type of puppet, just a name someone gave to their style of puppetry) I first heard about shoulder puppets via Puppets and Stuff. So what are they?
Wayang golek is the name given to Indonesian rod puppets (not to be confused with wayang kulit), and is also often known as Javanese puppetry. Java being an island within Indonesia. Wayang means ‘puppet’ - which is why it is often confused with wayang kulit. Wayang golek is distinctive due to its particular character designs: angular shoulders; long, skinny arms and legs; and extremely elaborate carvings, paintwork and costumes. Excellent video can be found at the bottom of this post.
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.