Volshebnaya LampaRussian: Волшебная лампа, or The Magic Lamp, is a small and very cozy puppet theatre in the heart of Moscow, not far from the Garden Ring. Its founders received the State Prize of the Russian Federation for creating this theatre, which puts on wonderful performances of classic children’s books in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Visitors will be given a warm welcome, seated so that everyone has a good view of the stage, allowed to ring the bell and taught to behave correctly during the show. And smiles are everywhere. The theatre’s lobby often organizes meetings with children’s writers, where you can buy autographed books and have a picture taken.
Since the theatre management makes fostering a love for literature its primary goal, the theatre puts on performances of only the best books written by top-ranked children’s authors. The current repertoire includes works by Alan A. Milne, Rudyard Kipling, the well-known American children’s author Dr. Seuss as well as Russian authors, such as Alexander Pushkin, Grigoriy Oster and Samuil Marshak. The theatre gives clear preference to traditional and and relatively cerebral performances rather than the interactive shows so popular today, however this approach does not make for a lack of enchanted spectators.
The Volshebnaya Lampa gives performances catering to children aged 3 and above. Every performance has a specific age limit, and visitors are kindly requested to respect it. The reason is that any exclamation from a kid who is too young to behave appropriately, his or her parents’ whispering and the crinkling of packets ruin the unique atmosphere of the performance. Most of the shows are delivered openly, that is, without the use of screens. Both the puppets and the actors who make the performances come alive can be seen on the stage simultaneously.
The theatre is relatively small and can seat only 80 people. Seats are not allocated at the time of booking and you can book them over the phone just by giving your last name and pay for them right before the start of the show. An administrator seats the kids in the first rows, and parents sit at the back. The auditorium has a slight elevation which makes the stage visible from any spot and it is very close to the spectators.
The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven KnightsRussian: Skazka o mertvoy tsarevne i o semi bogatyryah or Сказка о мертвой царевне и о семи богатырях is one of the most unusual shows staged here. The story about the beautiful princess, which is familiar to any Russian kid, merges with that of its author, Alexander Pushkin. You will hear excerpts from Pushkin’s diaries and his letters to his wife and friends. This performance gets many children thinking that every literary work was actually written by someone who had friends, a wife, children and habits and whose life holds just as much meaning as the literary works he or she created.
The theatre also puts on unique black box performances where only puppets can be seen (for example, The Cat’s HouseRussian: Koshkin dom or Кошкин дом). Other shows feature life-size puppets with costumed characters (an elephant, a kangaroo, etc.) that cover the performer’s face. Clowns are present on the stage with other performers in stage productions of The Tales of Horton the ElephantRussian: Skazki pro Slona Khortona or Сказки про Слона Хортона.
Visitors to the theatre note that all puppets have the same huge eyes that are wide open to the world and a somewhat sad smile. It is Marina Gribanova who created them. In 1989, she founded this theatre together with her husband, director Vladimir Shteyn, who had worked for many years in Sergey Obraztsov’s puppet theatreRussian: Teatr kukol S.V. Obraztsova or Театр кукол С.В. Образцова and always regarded himself as his student.
The Volshebnaya Lampa Puppet Theatre had long existed as a private theatre before acquiring the status of ‘state theatre’. After Vladimir Shteyn’s death in 2000, Marina Gribanova became its artistic director. In 2002, Vladimir Putin presented the founders of the Volshebnaya Lampa Puppet Theatre with the State Prize of the Russian Federation in literature and the arts.
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