The Cluj puppet theatre fulfilled an important social function in the second half of the twentieth century. Puppet shows 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).
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.
Palocsay Kisó Kata, the joint organiser of the project, saw this universe with her own eyes as a child and recalls it 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.You could love or hate Botár Edit’s puppets for their niceness or their nastiness. For it is through the minuscule worlds around him that a child tames the terrifyingly large and complex world beyond.”
Botár Edit (1930–2014) created over 80 designs for puppets and decor as the stage designer of the Cluj Puppet Theatre, of which 50 have been preserved in her estate. The exhibition The Small Worlds exhibition displays this valuable and unique collection, aiming to bring closer to children and adults the world of puppets and the period in which they were created.
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.
Seven puppets have survived as part of the Botár Edit collection. Palocsay has reconditioned these and uses them to direct a number of scenes, played by the actors Varga Hunor-József and Veres Orsolya, which form part of the exhibition.
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.
We look forward to seeing you there!