The Cluj puppet theatre fulfilled an important social function in the second half of the twentieth century, since puppet theatres represent an area of culture that can make its appeal to the public by drawing on a wide range of means and thus involving many senses at once. Puppet shows, these works of total art, provided a picture of the entirety of the child’s universe in an era in which television broadcasting in Romania was limited to a few hours per day and rarely showed anything of interest, while international travel was a privilege indeed (and one reserved for adults).
Classic fairy tales and contemporary texts alike were drawn upon to open children’s eyes as wide as could be by showing them the world in all its richness. The role of director and scenographer was to present their messages in the form of images accessible to children and thus make it possible for them to assimilate the world via their senses and minds, so that it became a welcoming place for them. In this way a kind of electric circuit came into existence between spectators and actors (puppets) – proof that the puppet theatre was succeeding in its mission.
The theatre also featured performances aimed at adults. Besides comedies, these also included “serious” plays that employed the means that only puppet theatre has at its disposal to register a response to the increasingly oppressive atmosphere of the Ceaușescu era. One play that stands out from among these is Widow Karnyó (directed by Kovács Ildikó, the original text being by Csokonai Vitéz Mihály), for which Botár Edit created the designs for the “giant puppets” costumes.
“In God’s name! What one has to put up with, and who from, and when!!” - exclaims Widow Karnyó, stepping out of her role to address the audience, and that audience - as the director recalled – was well able to identify with the up-to-the-minute message wrapped up in archaic language and disguised as a comic scene.
Botár Edit’s estate includes designs for puppets and decor for over 50 shows. The Quadro Gallery exhibition is based on this material, which has been catalogued and prepared by Palocsay Kisó Kata, Kocsis Tünde and Jakabffy Tamás.
The exhibition is organised thematically so as to introduce the world of the theatre, starting with decor and moving by way of puppet designs, grouped according to character and feeling, to a general presentation of all the design elements involved in a show.
Botár Edit succeeded in creating figures that are expressive, full of energy and characterised by a style that is all her own, even though she took full account of the specific features of the period and geographical setting of the stories she used. While her drawings remain within the parameters of realistic illustrations for children, they are always fresh and full of character. Both in her stage settings and in her costume designs she exploited her feeling for materials to create impactful fabric prints. At times the settings also draw on dynamic elements; these were often created in collaboration with the director. It was her achievement to produce maximum effects by the use of minimum means, an example here being the “northern light”, on display in the exhibition, a magical effect produced with the aid of a jar and a lantern.
Palocsay Kisó Kata, the joint organiser of the “Small Worlds” project, saw this universe with her own eyes as a child and recalls it (in a study to be published in the exhibition catalogue) as follows: “The shows I saw at the puppet theatre in my childhood had a defining effect on who I am now, even though they were not overtly didactic. The visual universe conceived by Botár Edit made me see what I would not even have been able to imagine. She gave wings to my imagination; in the uniformatising world of the 1970s and 1980s she held out a wealth of colours and forms. She brought me safely to ground in places far away geographically and historically. She familiarised me with the world of different peoples and epochs. You could love or hate her puppets for their niceness or their nastiness. For it is through the small worlds around him that a child tames the terrifyingly large and complex world beyond.”
The puppet show “Scenes in Colours” directed by Palocsay, played by the actors Varga Hunor-József and Veres Orsolya form also part of the exhibition, including the seven puppets of Botár Edit, reconditioned by them.
We are honouring puppet theatre tradition by not allowing our visitors to leave empty-handed. Hatházi Rebeka has created a range of paper puppets and puppets’ clothes based on designs by Botár Edit, thus evoking a toy that was very much part of the period in question.
The exhibition also includes documentary material contributed by the Puck Puppet Theatre and the Hungarian service of Romanian TV, both of whom we thank for partnering with us
The 31th Quadro Auction exhibition presents the widest selection of modern painting, graphics and sculpture that Galeria Quadro ever offered in an auction, and brings together over 230 works, belonging to a diverse number of schools, movements and artists with starting prices from 40 to 13.000 EUR.
The auction will take place between 26–28th of March exclusively online on the gallery's website www.galeriaquadro.ro.