Victor Antonov

Puppet theatre designer, designer-technologist, winner of the National Theatre Award THE GOLDEN MASK, participant and winner of awards of many prestigious theatre festivals in Russia and abroad.

Viktor graduated from LGITMiK, majoring in set design for puppet theatre, and in 1991–1994 had an internship at the department of puppet theatre. In 1994 – 2003 Viktor was master-tutor and teacher at the Theatre Institute. In 1997 – 2002 he worked at the theatre of marionettes Mini-Dlin. As a set designer, he created productions in various regions of Russia, as well as in Germany, France, Turkey, Armenia, Lithuania, Finland… As a director and designer, he created a shadow theatre production The Cat That… after Rudyard Kipling in Kukolny Format [Puppet Format Theatre].  Creator and performer of a unique program of trick marionettes Circus on Strings.

The principal productions:

Circus on Strings – 1993 (director)

The Cat That… – 2003, Puppet Format Theatre, St. Petersburg (director)

The Leningrader – 2009, Cube Theatre Studio, St. Petersburg (designer)

On the Other Side of Gogol — 2010, joint project of Sakhalin Puppet Theatre and Creative Union KultProyekt [CultProject] (designer)

Carmen – 2012, Vologda Puppet Theatre Teremok (designer)

Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro — 2014, Obraztsov Puppet Theatre, Moscow (designer)

Expedition – 2015, Chelyabinsk Puppet Theatre (designer)

Iron – 2015, Puppet Theatre of the Republic of Karelia, Petrozavodsk, designer, author of the idea and stage text (together with Boris Konstantinov)

Letter Book – 2015, Moscow Chamber Puppet Theatre for Children (designer)

“No matter how long I have been working with marionettes, it still seems to me that I do not know a thing about them,” said Viktor Petrovich, starting the conversation with a smile. “I am not an actor, but a set designer for puppet theatre. So, even when I made three marionettes on my own (at that time I was a senior student), I had no clue what was so special about them. You hold a control bar in your hands, and the puppet somewhere below lives its own life – it does not listen to you, it is hard to operate it.”
Kseniya Kabanova, "Ivanovskaya gazeta" [Ivanovo Newspaper]
“There is no puppet circus in Russia at the moment. However, at the end of the 19th – early 20th century this theatre form was very popular. For instance, Zaitsev had a widely known marionette circus. In Europe this kind of art still exists, for example, in theatre Domini, which actually was the first one to create a model for European puppet circus.”
Victoria Oliferchuk,"Vecherny Chelyabinsk" [Evening Chelyabinsk],


Name: Antonov Viktor Petrovich

Date and place of birth: 28.09. Tambov

Education: LGITMiK, major in set design for puppet theatre (1991).

Career: Started at Tambov Regional Puppet Theatre, then Theatre Academy, after that – productions in other theatres.

Favorite authors, subjects, stories: This is not an easy question: the appetite comes with eating. You may find something interesting in anything and get inspired by that.

Favorite traditional system of puppets/texture: I love the marionette, it is my kind of puppet. However, I have worked in various techniques and systems. Any particular thing needs special approach, so I would find it hard saying that I have a favorite subject… For instance, if the subject does not suit this production, why would I force it into it? I like to change techniques, I am not a supporter of only one system. In fact, it would be worth addressing this question to some European actor, who has chosen a certain subject and works in it, whereas in our country, if you work as a designer, you have to change your technique.

Does a performance need text? Again, this is decided individually: I personally like to work without text, however, such problems mostly pertain to designers, because designers in general deal with visual theatre. The desire to get rid of the text can be explained by the importance of visualization. However, this depends on the designer, the director – some like it with the text, others prefer without. In my opinion, it is impossible to say what is more contemporary.

Is the expression “puppet theatre” still relevant today? So you come to see a performance, you watch it and tell yourself: “This is puppet theatre.” Then you see another performance, watch it, and think: “This is not puppet theatre.” To say that something is puppet theatre or not… this is a disputable, complicated question.

What, in your opinion, is the difference between puppet theatre in Russia and the West? The difference is in approach and school (presence or absence of those). They also have schools of puppet theatre abroad, and all of them have specific characteristics. Here we have one school – students graduate from it and then join theatre companies. Therefore quite often, when you come to a theatre, you understand that, in fact, everyone is, so to say, in the same pond. However, there are interesting productions here as well… At the same time I think that school not even burdens, but sort of binds over. There is a division into designers and directors which makes things hard: you have been taught a certain method, and it is hard to jump out of it. Looking at our counterparts abroad, we can see that their limits are less rigid: they often do not understand why they have to do this or that, why some things should not be mixed, etc. They do it somewhat easily, although I am not saying that they have no problems. When we watch their productions, they may not look very professional, but they have an element of unexpectedness. Here, when they raise the curtain, an actor comes to the stage, says a few words, we see what happens on stage and, in principle, we can predict the whole performance.

In the productions abroad it is impossible to predict that. You do not know what happens next moment. Again, I am not saying that all their productions are very interesting, but they certainly are unpredictable. They can also be good or bad. And we have good, wonderful productions, too. This is about the presence or absence of a certain school. In our country this school is rather centralized, therefore all of the students graduate with a certain kind of stage presence, and then they somehow try to change it.

What is useful about collaboration and cultural exchange? Lots of things can be useful: the form, the actors’ approach. Here, unfortunately, when you come to a theatre, you start pulling your hair out – for instance, an actor can not stay behind the puppet, but instead stays in front of it. At the same time, the system a la Stanislavsky “from myself into the puppet” sometimes does not work. An actor is often stuck in “myself.” Of course, some people have a breakthrough thanks to their talent, but the main tendency is as described above, which pertains even to those actors who become very famous, get various awards and honorary titles such as “people’s artists”, etc. That is the way they are on stage, that is how their directors told them to be on stage, such was the trend in theatre. They perform by means of themselves, whereas the puppet, as some of them admit, gets in their way. The puppet loses to a human face.

Meanwhile, abroad you sometimes see such a badly made puppet that you start thinking: “As a designer, I am not interested in watching this.” When I for the first time visited a very large festival in Spain, I looked at the program and understood that I had an opportunity to watch only one performance. On the poster they had an absolutely awful puppet – Petrushka [Punch]. I had doubts about this Petrushka… but I had no choice, so I went to see this show. In five minutes I felt sorry that I had not switched on the camera at the beginning and in fifteen minutes I was sorry that I had recorded only excerpts from this performance. The actors (two actors who worked with Petrushka) worked wonders with that terrible puppet. How they listened to each other, how the little puppet worked! Everything got in its place, no more thoughts about “a bad puppet” – it was no longer bad, it was precisely as it should have been.

Mass Media Feedback:

“Viktor Antonov spends no less than six months abroad, introducing children from different countries to his Circus. If you look closely, at some point you will understand that Antonov’s mastery indeed borders on magic. Every puppet is constructed in a specific way and operated by strings, the number of which are much larger than the number of strings of a standard marionette. In Viktor Antonov’s hands the puppets instantly come to life and start performing extraordinary tricks – for instance, they swallow knives or fly up to the dome of an improvised circus.”

Yulia Gorshkova

IA Chizhov’s Galery

“Today you can see tricks performed by puppets very rarely. However, like in the old days, the contents and meaning of such tricks are in the mastery of a performer. And if, even once in your life, you are lucky to see a real master with a marionette in his or her hands, this spectacle will deeply touch you with the vivid embodiment of the eternal subject, which at various turns of history acquires this or that tone, – the subject of the dialectic unity of freedom-dependence of human existence. This is how it was. This is how it is going to be. Unexpectedly, the pendulum of history starts swinging in a more apparent way, an invisible string is stretched – thus, we restore the past which gives us the right to look forward to the future more boldly.”

Anna Ivanova-Brashinskaya

"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"