Puppet of the month | September 2015: Žogica Marogica
September, 01, 2015
The puppet of Speckles the Ball is one of the most cherished artefacts from the Museum of Puppetry, thanks to the massive success enjoyed by this eponymous play. While not the most valuable artefact in the puppet archive, it does have a chequered history of its own.
Speckles the Ball is a marionette puppet featuring 2.17 metre-long strings attached to its control bar. It was designed by Ajša Pengov, who provided it with a distinct artistic expressiveness. The puppet features in the play of the same name, which was written back in 1936 by the influential Czech puppeteer, Jan Malík. This tale about a speckled ball had universal appeal and soon it skipped and hopped across stages worldwide. Speckles the Ball came alive on the stage of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, which was then called the City Puppet Theatre, in 1951. At that time, the Slovenian puppet theatre was spearheaded by director and artistic director, Jože Pengov, and achieved an enviable level of artistry with sophisticated puppet plays (in addition to Speckles the Ball also The Little Sleepy Star, The Little Witch, Pinocchio, Mojca and the Animals, The Blue Bird, etc.), which had gained it recognition on the wider European scene. Today, these plays are considered classic puppet hits.
Speckles the Ball won the audience of young and old over in a heartbeat. It became part of the regular programme of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre and was put on more than 1,300 times with the original puppet, no less. But staying centre-stage for more than six continuous decades takes its toll. Like all museum pieces, puppets too can suffer from old age and wear, which is why Speckles the Ball was retired this year. Its duplicate will take the stage instead.
The real Speckles was thoroughly examined: it was established that it had sustained several scratches and scrapes throughout the years. The layer of paint had worn down and had peeled off. So the museum restoration workshop gave the puppet a facelift. This spring it was incorporated into the first permanent puppet museum exhibition in the country. This famous marionette is now on display daily at Ljubljana Castle in the context of the Museum of Puppetry exhibition set up by the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre. Right across in the glass display, which is now its home, you can see one of its duplicates. Visitors can touch it for a hands-on experience and see how it works up close.