It seems that Barcelona wants to catch up after a certain decline in puppetry over recent decades. The TOT Festival opened its doors on Friday 16th March. The TOT Festival is organised by the Pueblo Español (Spanish Village), a tourist attraction and centre, which, since its inception has combined arts, crafts, architecture, and activities for families. The Festival is of a modest size but its artistic director is Jacques Trudeau, General Secretary of UNIMA International, gives the event considerable breadth and significance.
The TOT Festival enters the void left by the late International Puppet Festival in Barcelona, which, after changing its name because of characteristically modern complexities, ended up losing its soul and, finally, its very existence. The enormous work done in its day by the Institut del Teatre in defense of this theatrical genre was hopelessly destroyed overnight; this private initiative is now occupying the vacuum, supported by much of the profession who, from the start, were interested in being involved.
A generous, good quality programme occupies different areas of El Pueblo Español for two weeks. There will be performances by some leading international groups, (Hilary Chaplain, the Teatr Bialostocki Lalek of Poland, the Teatro dei piedi of Italy, a Scottish-Catalan world premiere co-production, and many other shows). The programme is complemented by a workshop by Hilary Chaplain on “Physical Comedy”, several professional meetings, and by Off festival street and evening puppet performances.
Another special circumstance gives Barcelona a certain standing as a puppeteering capital: the text that will be read in more than eighty puppetry cities of the world, to celebrate International Day of Puppetry on 21st March, was written by Joan Baixas, a well known Catalan puppeteer. He will read the text live next Sunday in the Pueblo Español, after which Jacques Trudeau will hold a public discussion about the work of this unique artist, to the delight of those present.
We said earlier that Barcelona is being put back on puppetry’s world map. Perhaps the main reason we can say this, in addition to the events above, is because of the enormous creativity that exists here today. Practically every week there are premieres of new groups or artists from innumerable fields and locations. It helps that new spaces, bars and theatres have opened up recently for puppet theatre. And those puppeteers who are already old-hands have also played an invaluable role.
From Puppetring, we extend congratulations on this creative emergence, a reflection of the excellent moment of puppeteering in the world. As we said in our first editorial, today the centre of gravity of world puppetry is changing and new capitals and countries are emerging with incredible strength and new blood. The May meeting in Chengdu will certainly mark a before and after in the world of puppets. Exciting changes and developments which, from our three sites, we are determined to follow and report.