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Famous Belgian actor to set up own puppet theater in city where it is 'part of DNA'
CGTN
Europe;Belgium
Bouli Lanners poses as he restores a puppet. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP
Bouli Lanners poses as he restores a puppet. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

Bouli Lanners poses as he restores a puppet. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

Award-winning Belgian film actor Bouli Lanners tenderly applies the final brushstrokes to a traditional wooden puppet he is working on in the cellar of his home in Liege.

Following a feted four-decade career which saw him claim best supporting actor at the French equivalent of the Oscars this year, the moustachioed star, 58, is increasingly turning from the silver screen to puppetry.

After inheriting last year a collection from his father-in-law, whose family had run one of Liege's famed puppet troupes, he is now looking to set up his own theater in his backyard with his wife. 

"A puppet hanging in a library is a dead puppet, you have to give it life, make it play," he said. "Our goal is to transmit theater."

Liege has a long history of puppetry. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP
Liege has a long history of puppetry. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

Liege has a long history of puppetry. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

In an age of computer-enhanced superhero blockbusters and streaming services, the couple might seem to be swimming against the tide.

But Lanners is convinced there is still room for the slower form of entertainment that has always had a special place in this working-class town of 200,000 in eastern Belgium. "Until the 1920s, there were 62 theaters in Liege," Lanners said.

"Cinema killed off puppetry somewhat, but today there are still six fixed and three travelling theaters. Puppetry is still very present in the DNA of the people of Liege, and it's the children who come to see it, not the older generations."

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Another part of the motivation for Lanners, a committed environmentalist, is to get away from what he sees as the unsustainable energy consumption of film sets. 

"The wood for the puppets is basswood, and we don't need much," he says. "We buy the props at flea markets. We paint the sets ourselves on bed sheets." 

Lanners said puppetry is in the DNA of the city of Liege. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP
Lanners said puppetry is in the DNA of the city of Liege. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

Lanners said puppetry is in the DNA of the city of Liege. /Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

Lanners and his wife hope to stage two performances each week from January in their 30-seater theater. Their troupe consists of an impressive series of around 160 characters and animals including donkeys, snakes and dragons, which they will manipulate at arm's length behind the stage. 

That is no mean feat, given that some of the puppets can weigh over 10 kilograms and stand 80 centimetres tall. Lanners is still not turning his back entirely on cinema, but reckons he will cut his output down to one film a year. 

"I feel less and less comfortable with my place in this industry," he said. "I want to change my life, and my ideals too."

Famous Belgian actor to set up own puppet theater in city where it is 'part of DNA'

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Source(s): AFP

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