Irish Puppet Theatre History

Delvaine’s Marionettes visit Dublin in May 1936

On this day…

Drawing of Olympia TheatreAn Irish Times advertisement on 18th May 1936 advertises the appearance of Delvaine’s Marionettes (later became Delvaine’s Royal Marionettes) at the Olympia Theatre.

Although regarded as an English puppet company, it was actually founded by an Irishman, Daniel Fanning. Daniel Fanning first became involved with puppetry while selling programmes, with his brothers and sisters, for D’Arc’s Marionettes were appearing at Dublin’s Rotunda between 1869 and 1873. Daniel’s father was the organist at St Anne’s Cathederal and played the piano for marionette shows.

An obituary, from The Stage, in November 2006 paid tribute to Desiree Ann Delvaine King, the last surviving member of this puppet company:
“The Victorian marionettes, originated by Desiree’s great grandparents more than 150 years ago, became the Royal Delvaines following 18 royal performances over the years, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. The Delvaines was a big ‘fit-up’ and consisted of an 18-foot tall stage with marionettes in the boxes and a full marionette orchestra. Marionette figures would perform on the stage exactly as a human being would. Many of them would be trick figures – John Bull changing into 12 tiny sailors before one’s eyes, an ostrich which laid eggs that hatched little puppet chicks or a donkey and cart that turns into a boat and sails away to the tune of A Life on the Ocean Wave.”

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