Twenty years after

In September 1988, Teatro de Marionetas do Porto / Porto Marionette Theatre appeared for the first time with the play “Miséria”. It was in France. Twenty years later, João Paulo Seara Cardoso’s company maintains the itinerancy, both in Portugal and abroad. The founder and director spoke to JN.
Interview: Isabel Peixoto
September 11, 2008
in “Newspaper”
Is it wrong to think that marionettes are only for children?
When I started, I felt more of this stigma, this connotation of marionettes only for a children’s audience. But the marionette is by no means just for children. What is more, marionette theatre is a very complex and imaginative stage language – the marionette is, by nature, a counterpart of man, it’s a work of art, a sculpture. Marionette theatre is ideally a platform for interconnecting new scenic languages.

Was it always like this?
No, it was not always like this. The point is that the contemporaneity of marionette theatre is a very recent phenomenon. One of the reasons for the stigma towards the marionettes is that they have existed for centuries and centuries in folk universe, and it is difficult for them at this moment to get out of this limbo of archaism. Up until the 1940s or 1950s, people in Portugal knew little more than the theatre of “Robertos”.

What was the turning point?
It’s by this time that new experiences are developed in Europe. Europeans come into contact with fabulous theatre languages of the East – Bali, Java, China, India, Burma, theatrical traditions with fantastic marionettes – and begin to realize that marionette theatre is not just the puppet shows at fairs. These new languages of marionette theatre are no more than 50 years old.

Do you spend more time outside or in Portugal?
We have a great responsibility first towards Porto’s audience, and second towards Portugal’s audience. This responsibility makes it impossible for us to accept all the invitations we receive to perform in foreign countries. But we travel abroad every year. To this day, we have made about 250 performances abroad. We could make many more, but it’s not possible. Now we are more selective.

Is the balance of these 20 years good or bad?
It is a very difficult answer. In the play Miséria, the character of Miséria makes a pact with the devil to grant him another 20 years of life. And the devil agrees. And Miséria, at some point, after the 20 years have passed, thinks: “It seemed an eternity yet it was nothing more than a moment.”

Do you feel the same?
I feel the same. I also feel the same when he says: “Time is an invisible thread that connects a story to another story.” And the life of the company is also like that, because a thread has linked a story to another story, and these are the stories we share with the audience.