Giant puppets provide inspiration and magic

Du Royal de Luxe review by intern, Kelsey

On October 15, the Gregg Museum of Art & Design presented a colossal film in a small room of the Talley Student Union. Du Royal de Luxe captures the journey of the French street theater company “Royal de Luxe” as they maneuver their massive marionettes through big city streets. Members of the theater company operate the enormous puppets with long ropes, navigating them through the roads flocked with myriads of people of all ages gathering around to marvel at the gentle giants.

The film showed three different stories of the company’s travels. The first was in was in the French city of Le Havre, where the giant that “fell from the sky” appeared embedded in the roof of a house, assessing his new environment with confusion as small children and their parents looked on with excitement and curiosity.

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The second of the giant puppets was a young boy, who they said was sent as a son for the giant who fell from the sky. He made his way from a small village to Le Havre to be united with the giant. After his long journey, onlookers laughed and applauded as the boy ate fish thrown into his mouth by members of the theater company until he finally closed his mouth and shook his head to signal he was full.

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At last, the two were joined by a new arrival that came in an enormous crate, which children huddled around while giggling and exclaiming, “I can hear breathing!” A day later a beautiful giraffe and her baby emerged from the crate and made their presence known by parading through the streets and stopping to eat leaves from the tall trees around the city. The movements of the giraffes’ legs and long necks were so realistic it was easy to forget that these strange creatures were made of wood and metal. They continually emitted puffs of air through their large nostrils accompanied by loud, guttural cries.

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When it was time for the giant and later the boy and giraffes to leave the city of Le Havre, the people gathered around to say their farewells. Some smiled and hoped they would be back soon while others shed a few tears, saying the gentle giants would be greatly missed. The most captivating thing about Du Royal de Luxe was the fascination and exuberance the theater company’s massive marionettes seemed to garner wherever they went. People of every age were absolutely stunned and delighted to see these beasts upsetting their daily routines and creating countless spectacles. The marionettes themselves are amazing feats in both artistry and engineering as the movements of the people and animals are so incredibly lifelike that it’s easy to forget that actual people are operating every part of them and they are not simply moving of their own accord. The film was truly touching as it portrayed the spirit of the people, their imaginations as big as the marionettes parading through the city, knowing the strings are being pulled yet still speaking about them as if they were self-animated. The Royal de Luxe theater company goes to great lengths to be able to bring a little magic into the lives of others. Their puppets are truly awe inspiring as they display both highly innovative artwork and the monumental physical effort it takes to hoist these works around.

Diane Beckman, a French professor at NC State University attended the event and provided English translation for the film. She and her husband happened to have also seen a work from the theater company in real life on a vacation to France and shared their footage of a massive mechanized elephant roaming the streets and spraying water on unprepared onlookers. The elephant also shows how advanced the company has become as people can actually take turns riding in the elephant itself as it walks around. Now, not only is Royal de Luxe bringing art to the people, they’re actually bringing the people into the art!

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Professor Diane Beckman is pictured here with her husband Douglas Harned and an attendant of the event, local puppet artist Martique Lorray who is involved with the puppet theater company Paperhand Puppet Intervention group. Martique was touched by the film and the artistry of the puppets. You can find out more about Martique’s work on her website at http://www.martiquelorray.com/new-page/. The Paperhand Puppet Intervention will also be performing at the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Thompson Hall on Thursday, November 12th at 6 pm. To find out more about the event, visit the company’s website at http://paperhand.org/.

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  • North Carolina State University

  • ARTS NC State

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