The puppet show entitled The Donkey of Nazareth was staged in 1996 by the Freyer Theatre
production, led by Edi Majaron and Agata Freyer, the renowned Slovene workers
in the field of puppetry. The text by Robert Waltl is a dramaturgical collage
of carolling topics. The performance is based on the biblical narration, since
European puppetry culture originates exactly in this tradition. The story of
the birth of Jesus laid on a bed of hay is shockingly similar to the destiny of
numerous refugees who, driven from their homes, seek at least temporary
shelter. The main protagonist of the
puppet play is a donkey who sees all the hypocrisy that can also be observed
today. The performance was led by actor Robert Waltl assisted by two singers;
they presented the well-known story as if they were three carollers and
illuminated it from a slightly more bitter point of view. It is a genuine
revival of past customs, which does not go without allusions to the wealthy and
selfish community because of which Mary had to find refuge in a stable. The
Three Magi come with their camels that have assumed human nature and
immediately get involved in a quarrel with Joseph’s donkey. The latter’s
cleverness then helps the Newborn on His way to exile. The old knowledge is
confirmed that the marginalized and weaker people of this world are, as a rule,
more sensitive and braver than the majority of mankind...
Several pieces of information survive about Christmas
plays in Carinthia. The best-known is the play recorded by Andrej Šuster –
Drabosnjak (1768–1825) which inspired Robert Waltl for the Donkey of Nazareth
text. However, only a few pieces of information exist about carol plays with
puppets. The popularity of depicting the most characteristic biblical episodes
is evidenced by the great number of surviving fresco cycles in small churches
all over Slovenia, from the late 14th century onwards. The visual
idea of Agata Freyer is based on the frescoes by Vincent of Kastav in the
Church of Virgin Mary at Škriljine near Beram in Istria, with the famous Dance
of Death from the year 1474.
To Agata Freyer’s design, characters from these
frescoes were masterly transformed into the protagonists of the performance by
Jože Lašič, maker of puppet heads, and Anja Dolenc who translated the folds of
the painted clothes into the third dimension, so that the puppets when
stationary (marottes) give the impression of art creations. The puppets’ faces
which express the character of the dramatis personae, were painted by Agata
Freyer. In the spirit of contemporary theatre, the performance combined the
tradition of past generations with the problems of our time.
After the premiere at Christmas in 1996, the play was
acted at international festivals in Ljubljana, ‘Lutke '97’ and ‘Festival
kolede’ 2010; ‘Klemenčičevi dnevi’ in Novo mesto; ‘Revija lutkarskih kazališta’
in Rijeka (Croatia); in Charleville-Mézières in France; Madrid, Tolosa,
Segovia, Alicante, Gijon, Zamora, and Leon in Spain; Silkeborg in Denmark; Gent
in Belgium; Dsegh in Armenia; Minsk in Belarus; Erfurt in Germany; and St.
Johan in Austria. It also toured numerous Slovene places until 2010, altogether
there were almost a hundred performances.
Presentation will take place on Thursday, 1 December, at 6 pm.
On display in the rooms of the Gallery's permanent collection.
Edi Majaron and Agata
From 1 December 2016
National Gallery of Slovenia