Friday, 9 June 2017

June's Puppet of the Month - Gudrun Esslin from 'Little Match Girl'

What’s your name and where do you come from? 

I’m Gudrun Ensslin, and I come from Germany.  

Oh. I thought the 'Little Match Girl' came from Hans Christian Anderson.  Aren’t you Dutch? 

Gudrun Ensslin
Well - the fairy tale of the poor, young matchstick seller who freezes to death is only one part of Helmut Lachenmann’s opera. Onto this he layered the story of me and the Baader-Meinhof gang in 1970’s Germany. Our guerrilla group battled the capitalism of western Germany, and I died by hanging myself in prison. Lachenmann weaves some of my suicide texts into the opera, as well as radio recordings of the gang.

That doesn’t sound like a happy story. 

No, it is all quite dark, quite challenging…. Lachenmann’s music has been compared to artwork by Francis Bacon. But we are dealing with themes of protest, and isolation, and sacrifice. Helmut actually knew the real Gudrun when she was a child. 

So you are a shadow puppet version of Gudrun? 

There is a puppeteer - Fiona Clift - who wears plastazote shapes and costume to give the silhouette of me, and I am a cardboard cut out of that silhouette. 

There’s two of you?

Yes. So I could appear in different scenes in different places in very quick succession. This is the good thing about shadow puppetry - it can be lighting fast. An effect you can’t have with real-life puppets and puppeteers. You could also say that the lights were puppets in this production too. They were manipulated and moved around, and ‘puppeted’ to create our effects.  

When did we last see you? 

A year ago at Spoleto Festival USA, in 2016. I understand that Blind Summit is back at Spoleto this year, performing The TableI’m currently enjoying my Big Yellow storage unit in Reading. 

Little Match Girl at Spoleto Festival USA, 2016

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