Instead of enumerating lists and statistics let me give you a bunch of engaging experiences of the festivals still fresh in my mind.
In 1969, to our surprise, we saw a hand-play performed by Bulgarian puppeteer students. They performed an etude of two galanty shows 'Peter and the wolf' and ‘The Masquerade of the Animals’ with their bare hands in a really humorous and witty way. To my pleasure, some ‘avantgarde touch' also appeared: a young Belgian-French theatre showed the helplessness of the forgotten man against the giants of the metropolis in their fantasy-play called ‘Mister X'.
We saw one of the most original puppeteers in the world in 1971. Yves Joly, from Paris, performed his world-famous feats wonderfully simply with paper, a screen and his gloved hands. The colourfulness of the French puppetry was proved by another excellent puppeteer, André Tahon, as well.
The 1973 festival might saw the most colourful festival of all, since almost every participating country had sent their best artists. Besides the marionettes of Hogarth Puppets company from London, lead by a clever donkey, the Opera dei Burattini from Rome also excelled: they performed a Monteverdi opera! The Lubliners brought their Polish folk puppet traditions, with their a Nativity-play triptych. The French Jean-Paul Hubert kept in the background all by his humble self: his one-man folding screen was mounted on his shoulders and his head, and while his turned-up shoes peeped out from beneath his cloak he presented numerous puppets above his head with quick changes of scenes featuring Faust and a dragon amongst others.
Leaving the European cultural backgrounds behind, we had a Japanese puppet theatre among our guests for the first time in 1976. The PUK from Tokio gave a display of their beautiful ancient legends. Our stage was swarmed by dragons and elves swarmed over our stage. We also saw a gorgeous 'Mrs Karnyó' performed by the Puppet Theatre of Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania. The National Puppet Theatre of Budapest brought their most beautiful show 'Petruska'.
We had a precious guest in 1979, S. V. Obraztsov brought his latest play from Moscow 'Don Juan 79'. The utmost merit of spectacular display was his precisely elaborated performance. He was followed by an old memory of the European puppet traditions, the Sicilian marionette-technique. This time our Belgian guest used this technique; they fought their wild joust loudly.
Wright and his company, from London, played etudes, real characters appeared under varying masks. You can rarely see puppets being moved with such excellent plasticity.
The French couple Monestier were on their mettle again: they played the story of 'The little Gargantua' - they were turning and tearing a huge corrugated cardboard roll with great virtuosity.
1982: The New Yorker Eric Bass's solo 'Autumn portraits' was a sensational accomplishment of a first-class professional and exceptional personality. The background was constituted by the observation of the man, and the philosophy of the observer, while in the foreground one could see some excellent movements.
The Puppet Theatre of Cluj-Napoca brought their puppeteer interpretation of 'King Übü'. Besides the amazing performance offered by the title character, their display proved that puppets and actors can live on stage side by side.
The Festival of 1985 was opened by the great marionette artist, Albrecht Roser. Roser with his Clown Gustav showed all the sophisticated beauties of marionette art.
Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls is a basic reading for most of us. The Soviet puppeteers brought a startlingly powerful adaptation of the work characterized by calm, puritan interpretation seen at theatre performances.
Mr and Mrs Boowinkel used the most diverse techniques to show 'Twenty short stories' interwoven by deep thoughts that made everyone mull over and over again.
1989: The Theatre of Voronezh put 'The Boy of the Lake' on stage – the humbleness of puppeteers radiated through their performance.
The French brought a highly valuable work again: they adapted the mythical story of Iliad to the present time with a well-thought-over system of tasks of stage actions implemented consequently.
The Swiss Pannalal's used the least instruments possibly. The puppeteer-clown worked with his hands and some objects and he asked the viewers to play with him, so his ideas, insights and solutions had the impact of discovery and his efforts was crowned with success.
Both the Polish mystery-play performed in the church and the Italians were illuminating although, the long-awaited 'The soldier's story' by the letter was a bit too textual and dramatic: I missed the importance of the puppets.
In 1992 the Swiss couple, Pannalal's three years after the successful clown-game, presented a spectacular solo, but only those could thoroughly understand the philosophical interpretation who could speak French - the rest of us enjoyed the amazing sight only.
At last we could invite a traditional Sicilian marionette theatre that performed the ancient story of Orlando loudly with huge and heavy puppets in uproarious style.
Looking over the list of performers of all the ten festivals I can say that small companies, family theatres and soloists have appeared with more and more varying and valuable performances in recent years. Some individuals have left the bigger theatres so then they could develop the chamber system further in order to display their personality in a more subjective performance style.
The overview have offered an opportunity for the theatres who have participated regularly at the festival that now, looking back from the present they could think over how their earlier performances helped to find and improve their individual voice and unique style.
One of the characteristics of the performances of the 1998 festival was that participants have moved towards quality and considered the differences of puppet theatres and human theatres in a more sharply. Finding and expressing the originality and individual character of PUPPETS has become the underlying task of other foreign festivals as well. There have been important lectures and illuminating disputes about puppetry in Pécs, so we could move on towards more clear unambiguous expressions.
Visuality, poetic vision and the world of fairy tales are to be sought even if the examples qualify the character of nations unique, because the mission of puppet theatres is to enchant the viewers and to lift them to another sphere.
The puppet festivals and the performances of BÓBITA Puppet theatre attract an ever-growing number of audience, since this puppet theatre is the driving force behind; they are the host of the International Adult Puppet Theatres.