Europe Travel News

Cut the strings at Amsterdam's premier puppet festival

Based on name alone, one may be forgiven for assuming that Amsterdam's Pop Arts Festival is a showcase of Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein, or at the very least, their successors. While there is some painting at the event, attendees are more likely to see soup cans in the hands of a puppet than they are on an oversized canvas.

That's because the Pop Arts Festival is one of the premier exhibitions for puppetry, animation and object theater. Those uninitiated to this artistic subgenre may draw parallels to the works of director Tim Burton or the Wallace and Gromit? franchise. Yet, this puppetry exists on the artistic fringes, featuring the grotesque and the bizarre, according to Amsterdam's official website, making for one of those strange European festivals that manages to furrow brows while still drawing in viewers.

Pulling the strings
The Pop Arts Festival was first staged in February 2010 as a means of showcasing the artistry of international puppet and object theater around the world. According to the festival's website, the event is not just a spectacle the public, but also an opportunity for artists in a disparate field to meet, mingle and exchange ideas.

Now, five years later, a 10-day festival will feature the performances of more than 20 companies from Spain, Israel, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Shows will be divided among De Krakeling, Theater Bellevue and Ostadetheater, the three Amsterdam theaters that collaborated to create the event.

Outside the box
There are plenty of performances to see over the course of the event, and while the festival claims shows for both young and old, visitors will most likely find something that changes their view of theater. One of the opening acts is also one of its most mainstream - an acclaimed puppet performance of the famed musical, "The Little Shop of Horrors." The Oxford Times, which gave the show five stars last year, praised it for its directing, puppet makers and its unusual approach to the musical. 

"If you can imagine Harold Pinter and Alfred Hitchcock creating a puppet show together then you can get some idea of what to expect from Pickled Image's new production The Shop of Little Horrors," The Oxford Times wrote. 

Other acts include the child-friendly "Beet!," the story of a competitive skater who falls on the ice, clings to a polar bear, and is then taken to a fantastic world under the surface where he must confront his fears and desires. The Israeli "Papercut," meanwhile, follows the story of a Hollywood secretary who falls into a romantic daydream as a 1940s movie star. 

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