Tales on a string

“Puppetry is an art form full of possibilities: you can create and recreate,” says Sabrina Anastasio Arusam, a professional puppeteer from France, now settled in India. This French artiste started her career 15 years ago through classical theatre and clowning, and realised that comedy was her forte ever when she first started experimenting with puppetry. She has now brought her art to Chennai, with Puppet Swing, a production combining puppetry and Hindustani music.

Interspersed with references and influences from India, Sabrina’s work explores the cultural connect between the puppet traditions of two countries by blending artforms specific to these cultures. Puppet Swing, for instance, tells the story of Raymond, an old French man visiting India. The production follows Raymond’s journey through India and the incidents that ensue. Complementing this narrative — which has very few dialogues — will be music played by two renowned Hindustani musicians: Dhruv Bedi on the sitar and Saptak Sharma on the tabla.

“For the past four years, I have been experimenting with puppetry. I have learned from training programmes that look at different techniques,” says Sabrina, who has trained under prominent names like Greta Bruggman and Sylvie Osman (Arketal Company) in France. The artiste developed a strong interest in the traditional art forms of India after attending a Kathputli masterclass in Udaipur with Lala Bhaat in 2011. “That workshop was like a revelation. Those three weeks in Udaipur made me fall in love

Tales on a string

with India,” says Sabrina, who put up her first puppet show about six months after the workshop.

Sabrina’s initial training was in the contemporary form of stitch puppetry, with table puppets. But she feels that the Indian audience is very keen on experimental pieces — always looking for new things. “ What I am very passionate about, is using traditional methods but implementing them in a modern way,” she says, adding that glove puppets and marionettes seem to interest the Indian audience. “I don’t take to a specific style. What I want on stage is first created and decided. And then, I zero in on technique.”

Over the years, she also developed various artistic projects involving Indian artistes. ‘Ahimsa’ was one such show, based on Gandhian philosophy, meant for young audiences. The inspiration for it was drawn from India, says Sabrina, adding that she tries to weave stories based on the observations that she gathers while travelling. “When I started out, I used to research on stories and change them a little for the sake of performance. Then I decided to write stories on my own,” she concludes.

Puppet Swing will be staged at the Alliance Francaise of Madras — Edouard Michelin Auditorium, on September 6 at 7 pm. 28279803

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 4:01:22 PM |

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