Floating over the night

S I L E N C E . Disrupted only by a call of a swan issuing from the blackness of night. Mesmerising black shapes flashing through the walls of nearby buildings and dancing on some trees illuminated by colourful lamps above the shimmering pond. Mysterious music is coming from a distance, fulfilling the already dense atmosphere. Final of the Festival de Marionetas e Outras Formas Animadas is about to begin.

The shadow play “Dragon”

For the previous three days, in Funchal were held several events and activities connected by one concept of string puppets. The COVID-19 restrictions have caused the cancellation or postponing the multiple cultural events worldwide. However, locally the coronavirus pandemic is apparently under control, as a result of which some small performances on Madeira island got the green light to take place.

One of them is Festival de Marionetas e Outras Formas Animadas, in abridged form “Festival MARiOFA”. The event took place for the first time in 2019 when it gained enormous popularity and attracted a broad media attention. The parades and shows across the whole city including the main streets known as the showcase of the Madeiran capital.

The second edition of the MARiOFA gathered a broad audience despite the constraints. Marionette making workshops, fantoccini shows and shadows plays. All with multi-hue puppets and black dressed artists.

A puppet called Bob

Puppetry is a fascinating art form having ancient origins dated back to 4000 years ago. Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. It is considered that the puppets can be older than human actors.

There are various forms of puppetry and there is a special one – “Robertos”- portuguese glove puppets with the most popular character called Roberto. For decades it was usual to see these colourful puppet theaters on the streets, in village squares, gardens and beaches throughout the country. However, being a puppeteer was a physically challenging job and scarcely ever entailed good earnings. The invention of cheap and comfortable forms of entertainment such as the radio and TV meant the end of the golden era of puppetry in Portugal. The MARiOFA brought back to life nearly forgotten piece of art and made possible enjoying the art of puppetry in the streets of Funchal.


The night show

Meanwhile, the music in the Parque de Santa Catarina in Funchal increases in intensity. The lights turn on. At the stage occur shadows and the small figures walk into the boards carefully controlled by the puppeteers. Wooden characters evoking the legendary Pinocchio easily make the public scream with laughter. After a nearly hour-long show, the speechless audience gives a warm round of applause.

The guests are about to leave, notwithstanding it is not the end yet. There is a flock of seagulls inviting for a walk around the park with the accompaniment of engrossing music. Presented by Teatro Metaphora bird show leads to the installation above the park pond. The curious visitors can watch the dance of disguised actors evocative of merfolks or some other mythical creatures. After a while the show is over, but this time the assembled are leaving the park in silence. The MARiOFA 2020 Festival is officially finished engraved as an unforgettable memory.

Photographs by courtesy of MARiOFA

Ignacy Januszek
Volunteer at Teatro Metaphora – Associação de Amigos das Artes
European Solidarity Corps  
To know more: https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en

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