Monday, October 5, 2015

Festival of Marionettes, Charleville-Mezieres (Oh, France...)

Hi! Back from France (and Sweden and Norway and Denmark!) and straight back into manic writing, so it's hard to make time to sort photos, but here are some. Too many! It's impossible to choose when it comes to this amazing event: the Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionettes in Charleville-Mezieres, in the Ardennes region of France (on the Belgian border). 

Last winter some time I saw a cool picture on Pinterest of some puppets (I love puppets!) and followed the link and within minutes was emailing Jim and my best friend Alexandra to say: WE HAVE TO GO TO THIS. Meanwhile, Alexandra had discovered it randomly on the same day and was preparing to email me to say we must go to hereIt's held every two years and takes over the town. Puppets in every shop window, puppet shows in the streets, and in theaters and churches and everywhere they can fit. 

I didn't totally believe we'd do it, that we'd actually GO, but we DID. Yay, us!

Here's the 17th-century Place Ducale in Charleville:

And here's the Place Ducale with the Pied Piper and his rats:

Rat meets dog. (The dog was FREAKING OUT.)

And here's the Place Ducale with the "King of Paper" who told stories with the aid of cardboard figures magnetized to his epaulettes. Here he's telling Clementine the Orpheus legend as rain lurks in the background:

Rain: not the best thing for the King of Paper. Jim assists with the umbrella:

But then something AMAZING happened:

It was a gasp-out-loud rainbow. I've never ever seen such a perfect rainbow. Then it doubled

Just a little slice of street:

The poet Arthur Rimbaud is a native son, and that's his museum at the end of the street.

It's right on the river. Literally:

The church was pretty magical. 

The stained glass reflecting on the pillars. We stood in it and had stained-glass baths, which, of course, impart magical abilities.

But back to puppets!

Shows in the streets, hither and thither, day and night:

This window opened to a different brief mechanical show every hour:

The shop windows!

The posters!

The puppets for sale!

The nougat wizard!

This guy looks dangerous:

And MAN. So many pics already and I haven't even gotten to the two big spectacles yet! 
First, the opening ceremonies. Think: Cirque du Soleil over the 17th-Century town square.

High, high in the sky, out of the black of a night misted by intermittent rains, this lady appears.

She floats, she sings, she swings. She is lowered into the square.

And disappears between the petals of an immense flower.

Queue this curious parade!

Marching! Fanfare! Stilts! Drums! Giant rubber ducks and seahorses and strange, strange things!

They watch the great blossom, waiting for something to happen...

And something does! It...blooms.

Creatures emerge.

It unfurls. It unfurls musicians

The creatures climb ropes as the petals take flight. 

There's our girl.

Singing. Soaring.
(Don't you love her hair? :-)

And then, because, you know, not enough, the glowing sea serpent is born.

One last glowing fish parade and that's it. 

Our stars disembark, giddy. 

Here's the thing. There was a good crowd gathered, wasn't crowded. We're standing in this glorious square and the stars climb off their petals right in front of us, and there's room to breathe, room for glowing fish to swim, and everything's just right there. Absolute magic. 

Whew. BREATHTAKING. And through all of it, the mist of rain hanging in the air, and unbelievably, there are short heavy showers before and after, but for the show itself, the skies have mercy.

Spectacle the Next: The Unreals

In the square, beside the carousel, throughout the day, a circle of pavilions is being constructed.

Each one very beautiful and very different. Each one the home of a different "Irreel." The "Irreels," the sign tells us, are beings that are fragile, silent, and sensitive. (Thank you for respecting them.)

They don't show themselves, however. That night, the rain keeps them at bay.

Is that a bunny in that cage?

A really creepy bunny.

The next morning, though, they're there, inhabiting their wondrous environments...

 for sadly too brief a time before the rain, once again, drives them to shelter.

Even their retreat was magical though. Their slow, silent, elegant movement through the crowds.

I would have loved to have a good hour at least to walk round the pavilions of the Irreels. We had to leave to get back to Paris at midday and so couldn't await their return. DRAT! I didn't even get to see them all, and one assumes that the chance will not come again.

The festival will come again, however, and if at all possible, we will be there. For more than 1-1/2 days next time!

By Compagnie Creature. See their site for more magic. And here's a better sense of the Irreels in life:

A marionette or two may have made it home with us. This little guy would delights and bewilders Parisian dogs when he accompanied us on our morning boulangerie runs :-)

Don't you think Zuzana would be right at home at the Festival of Marionettes?

The great Ardennes boar, Woinic, charging on a hilltop:

We stayed about 30 minutes away at a fortress in a town called Sedan. (Here.) The entrance was this spectacular arch in this massive wall:

We arrived late at night, and it was all so dark, and I was puzzling over where to park and where the actual hotel was when I realized you actually drive through it. Doy!

And THIS is inside...


There was a classic car race of some sort going on. All these sleekster vehicles headed someplace.

And that's all! Such a long post! Don't you want to go to the festival in 2017?? 
Plenty of time to plan :-)

Next time: Pierrefonds Castle, part medieval, part theater, all wonderful.

(new family portrait, XO!)

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