Burmese marionette theatre at festival in Charleville - Mézières

October 2006 -

Charleville-Mézières, in the French Ardennes, is the world’s puppet capital. The fourteenth triennial international puppet theatre festival was held there from 15 to 24 September 2006. Performances were held for public and professionals from France and elsewhere by 150 puppet theatre troupes.


One of these was the Mandalay Marionettes Theatre from Burma: one of the few Burmese groups that performs the traditional and extremely refined Burmese marionette theatre. This type of theatre reached its peak in the era of the Burmese court culture at the end of the eighteenth century, when the country even had a special Minister of Puppetry, the Yokethay Wun. This minister was responsible for the travelling puppet players and engaged the best of them to perform at court. At the height of its popularity, in the period 1820 - 1885, puppet theatre was appreciated even more than theatre with human actors.

birmees poppentheater
Mandaly Marionettes, photo: Elisabeth den Otter

Today the Mandalay Marionettes bring performances in Burma and abroad, focusing on a social perspective for the Burmese performances in particular. Co-founder Naing Yee Mar: "We have a dual social function. We let the audience experience the old values and cultures; in the province we perform the old Buddha stories or Jatakas that sometimes last all night. The audience eats, laughs, applauds, and sometimes nap, but the puppeteers continue to perform. We also have a more contemporary informative function: our marionettes inform teenagers outside of the cities about AIDS."