Puppet Friendly City
Gent is one of the five Flemish cities of art, a place with a rich historical heritage and a strong puppetry tradition. Pierke – a rod puppet – has been playing a lead role in traditional Gent puppetry for centuries. As a descendant of Pulcinella, he also wears a white suit adorned with red stripes, and a top hat with three red balls. A costume which is very similar to that of Pedrolino, one of the servants in Italian Commedia dell’arte.
Pierke has two friends: “Karelke den bult” (Charles the Humpback) and “Louis de lapkesdief” (Louis the rag thief), both of whom are also very indebted to characters from the Commedia.
Every week during winter, Pierke appears in four puppet theatres across Ghent, in performances geared specifically towards children: t Spelleke van Folklore, Poppentheater Magie, Poppentoneel Festival and Pedrolino.
Indeed, there is also a version for adults: “Pierke Pierlala”, stand-up comedian avant la lettre. He is a tender anarchist who performs in ’t Spelleke van Drei Kluite and comments on important events in the city.
Gent also has two professional puppet theatre companies: Ultima Thule and TAPTOE’s erf, the former Theater Taptoe. The latter company, especially, enjoys widespread international acclaim. They have performed in over 30 countries, achieving worldwide fame with their production “Heaven”, which was based on the sculptural work of René Magritte.
In addition to the companies, Gent is also home to the “European Puppet Theatre Centre” in Ghent. The centre programs various domestic and foreign groups and organises the annual International Puppet Buskers Festival during the Gent Festivities, an outdoor street event which attracts thousands of visitors.
The Huis van Alijn museum houses a small collection of historical puppets.
De Kopergieterij, a renowned Ghent youth theatre, programs puppet theatre on a regular basis.
Lastly, the contemporary visual theatre of Gent artist Miet Warlop is sometimes greatly indebted to contemporary puppet theatre.