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MARIONETTEATERN: puppetry in Sweden since 1958

Surprise is the only certainty when you encounter a performance signed Marionetteatern. Something new, different and never seen before greets the audience with each new work.

Marionetteatern has always stood for high quality puppet theatre for audiences of all ages. At Marionetteatern of today, shadow play theatre, puppets and live actors mix with dance, visual arts and music. 

The productions are always based on qualified literary texts or collaboration with important writers. With a serious approach to the manuscript, Marionetteatern is able to raise questions and touch issues that concern and engage its spectators.

Through the performances alongside educational activities, such as Meet the puppets! and workshops, Marionetteatern introduces audience members of all ages to the magic, traditions and techniques of puppet theatre.


The foundation of Marionetteatern in Stockholm in 1958 marked the first establishment of a permanent puppet theatre in Sweden. After a number of years performing solo, marionette maker and puppeteer Michael Meschke convinced politicians in Stockholm to give his new little theatre a chance. Marionetteatern was born and theatre of high quality and artistic merit began to reach the children of Sweden.

In the 1950’s and 60’s Marionetteatern provided theatre rich in imagery, music and text and developed a refined theatrical language for all ages.


In addition to literary classics for children, plays by Hoffman, Brecht and Büchner were presented for an adult audience using a variety of different puppet theatre techniques. With Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu, using flat figures and body masks, the theatre reached fame in 1964 and the play set off on extensive international tours. In the 1980’s King Ubu was revived for new performances at foreign festivals.

In the 1970’s, Michael Meschke began to research and work intensively with Asian puppet traditions, including Japanese Bunraku. Sophocles’ Antigone became the first example of a modified or modernized Bunraku when it premiered in 1977. The tradition of visible puppeteers completely took over Swedish puppet theatre during the following decade and influenced other free thinking puppet theatres across Europe.


During the 1980’s Marionetteatern underwent both organisational reconstructions and changes of address, but was able to maintain its international status through long and extensive touring.

Marionetteatern’s present artistic director, Helena Nilsson, began as an apprentice at the theatre in the 1980’s and took part in some of the decade’s greatest artistic successes; August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata for example, directed by the American puppeteer Roman Paska. During her first years at Marionetteatern, Helena Nilsson learned puppet theatre’s every profession: actor, puppeteer, puppet maker, and set designer, before she actually started to direct productions roughly at the same time as she became artistic director, in 1999.

Helena Nilsson’s signature as leader of the present Marionetteatern has been literary quality and a child’s perspective alongside an inventive combination of acting, puppetry and stage design. This brought Japanese comics (manga), shadow play, projections, masks and acting of high quality to the puppet stage.


In 2003 Marionetteatern became part of the largest dramatic theatre in Scandinavia, Stockholms stadsteater, as an independent branch with an artistic director of its own, Helena Nilsson.

Ten years later, in 2013, Stockholms stadsteater merged with the cultural center Kulturhuset and formed Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, one of northern Europe’s major cultural institutions located in the capital of Sweden. Kulturhuset Stadsteatern is a publicly funded cultural institution with approximately 3 million visitors per year. The activities include libraries, theatre, debates, art exhibitions, film, dance and music. CEO is Jesper Larsson.

There are eight stages at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, and one of them is the stage of Marionetteatern, dedicated to the art of puppetry.


Helena Nilsson, Artistic director, Marionetteatern