Contrary to his well-known principle, « after the practice, the theory », Edward Gordon Craig dreamt of the Übermarionette and wrote his famous essay about it (“The Actor and the Übermarionette”, dated March 1907) before he had any possibility to experiment with it. Therefore, it is impossible to determine what the real nature of this instrument was, as theatre historians usually attempt to do, because it had none. The word « Übermarionette » refered indeed not to a single invention, but to a plurality of scenical and technical hypotheses among which Craig was never to chose. All these hypotheses – either with actors or with puppets – aimed to resolve the same question: how can the theatrical performance become a piece of art that would be the work of one sole artist? Following step by step, from 1904 to World War I, the tracks left in Craig’s notebooks, letters and manuscripts, or in testimonies from friends and relatives, this article brings into the light the development of his ideas for the Übermarionette and the various technical solutions he imagined to realize it: first a double masked actor, then lifesize figures encapsulating their “movers”, or keyboard-puppets. It also demonstrates how these projects were deeply rooted in the stage director’s fascination for puppets, and his progressive discovery that puppetry is by itself an art. Lastly, it underlines Craig’s desire for simultaneously combining different modes of presence on stage (Übermarionette, actor, puppet, shadow etc.) as an anticipation of today’s evolutions in puppet theatre.
Didier Plassard è professore all’università Paul Valéry – Montpellier III. Ha pubblicato L’Acteur en effigie – Figures de l’homme artificiel dans le théâtre des avant-gardes historiques (L’Age d’homme, 1992), Les Mains de lumière, Anthologie des écrits sur l’art de la marionnette (Institut International de la Marionnette, 1996, rist. 2005), Edward Gordon Craig, Le Théâtre des fous / The Drama for fools, Éditions de l’Entretemps, 2012), Mises en scène d’Allemagne(s) depuis 1968 (CNRS Éditions, 2014).