(Written by Anukampa Sharma)
For as long as he can remember, puppets have been Nestor Navarro’s constant companions. Since his childhood back in Spain, he had watched his father, a professional puppeteer, create magic with the artform. In 2008, Navarro performed a shadow show, for the first time, with his father, and since then, he has been working around the world. Here in India for the International Puppet Festival, Navarro brought Pipa, a 40-minute glove puppet musical. He spoke about how puppetry is a universal art form that transcends barriers of language, culture and region. “Gestures and music communicate more than words. The Pipa puppet show was conceptualised in 2016 because I wanted to do a glove puppet show, keeping in mind the many traditional ways in which glove puppets are used in different parts of Europe, especially in Italy, England, France and Spain. I did not have any script or story in mind, the inspiration was my city and the characters emerged from there. In about nine months, the puppets themselves made the story with a little help from me. Pipa is a common Catalonian man, who falls in love and tries to seal the love with the first kiss,” says the 37-year-old puppeteer.
The International Puppet Festival was organised by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Tagore Theatre Society in collaboration with Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust. The festival closed with Navarro’s Pipa last week.
A scene from Pipa. (Photo: Jasbir Malhi)
When Navarro did his first performance, he was still working as a civil servant in the migration department of Barcelona, his hometown. He juggled both his jobs for about five years before he quit in 2013 and took to being a full-time puppeteer.
He is a core member of the Barcelona-based puppet theatre, La Puntual. Navarro’s mother and wife have created a new show for La Puntual, which can accommodate up to 50 people at a time. “Working with puppets is one of the best things to do in the world. From painting to sculpture, story-telling to direction, adaptation to acting, there are many creative and artistic disciplines you can connect with,” he says.
What inspires him to perform day after day, Navarro says, is the joy that the audience experiences while watching a show. “It is a feeling of fulfilment when people appreciate our work. For a puppeteer, knowing that people will remember the story and the puppets even if they forget him, is the most important and beautiful part of his puppetry. The puppet is the centre of the show and not the puppeteer, that’s important to remember,” he says.