Make way for Mummenshanz

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Hello, Peter Slight of the Puppet Challenge here.

Mummenshanz are a Swiss mask theatre troupe founded in 1972 and still going today.

Much of what they do is mime based, usually with a comical and surreal vein running through it. They also create some truly astonishing full body costumes and puppets made from all manner of things, usually quite mundane household items, which they bring to life in odd and unexpected ways. The characters they create dance and interact with each other using precise economic almost balletic movements which I find compelling to watch.



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Having seen lots of clips of Mummenshanz I still find it hard to acaccurately  describe what it is they do!



Their appearance on the Muppet Show in 1976 helped to push them into the mainstream.



The name Mummenshanz is German for ‘mummery’, or a play involving mummers. Mummer is an early modern english term for a mime artist.



It’s interesting to note that many of the comments left under the Youtube clips are divided between gasps of delight and shudders of horror.

Mummenshanz may be the visual equivalent of free-form jazz, you either love it, or want to pull your ears off and run away. I will leave you to decide which camp you fall into after watching them in action here


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8 thoughts on “Make way for Mummenshanz

  1. Wow, thank you Peter, I’ve never seen them before, but I’m hooked! It’s like I have no idea what it is I’m looking at, yet it’s totally mesmerizing. I love the ‘clay duel’!

    I’ve been working on my puppet challenge these last couple of days, please pop in and have a look!

      • Thank you, Clive, it’s a big learning curve for me! In the previous post to that one, you’ll see the beginnings of Bone Woman, and a video of a puppet performance by Sandy McKendrick. I started this puppet in a workshop with her, and so am intending to make the same kind of puppet as the little mermaid girl in the video, ie. stick/handle out of the back of her head held by puppeteer in one hand, while the other hand manipulates her arm. So I was a bit worried about the weight. Your suggestion about Bunraku puppets sounds like the sort of thing I’m thinking of, the puppeteer is visible onstage, holding the puppet and obviously manipulating it. A lightweight body is definitely the way to go, though it will be solid enough for her to ‘sit’ I think, which will also (hopefully) help if she’s a bit on the weighty side!

        I love the fact that it takes 30 years to become a Bunraku master, you’re right, it’s an idea our society could really learn from!

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