Journey into Hell: a Tour through Puppetry


  • Francesca Cecconi University of Verona



One of the most frequent topics in puppet theatre is the representation of the close relationship between the earthly and the otherworldly dimensions, often dealing with narratives that refer to crossing the boundaries between human and non-human, between life and death. Many puppetry techniques deal with this theme: from carnal puppets to visceral guarattelle, from shadows to robots. The aim of this essay is to analyse some of the puppet theatre techniques that have dealt with the theme of the journey to hell in order to trace a path that investigates assonances and divergences. The study starts with an analysis of Pirù, demoni e denari by the Walter Broggini Company. The show is inspired by the famous story of Orpheus and Eurydice but becomes humorous through the use of glove puppets. The analysis continues through an example of shadow theatre, El Gran Baile by the company Cosmonautas Teatro de Sombras, where the main theme is the reunion of the living and the dead, then discusses the show Inferno by Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn, in which the audience is asked to perform, wearing teleguided exoskeletons. Man, the puppeteer par excellence, is finally manoeuvred by the inanimate, in this case, robot machines in a real Inferno where everyone becomes an unwitting victim.

Keywords: hell; shadow; puppetry; robot; journey