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Der Kristallplanet (The Crystal Planet)


“Gearbox on cooling – pressure drops: 0.2g, 0.1, 0.05, 0.0g – exactly zero” – this is how the performance of Der Kristallplanet (The Crystal Planet) in the small Marionette Theater of Bad Toelz begins, a play which has already been seen by far more than a thousand spectators. The story was penned by the pioneer of German post-war SciFi, Herbert W. Franke, who passed away in summer 2022. In an FAZ obituary, he was referred to as a “short-short-story fireworker”, on the basis of the numerous science fiction short stories he wrote, each of which condenses a complex plot into two to three pages while being grounded in actual scientific knowledge.

Franke wrote Der Kristallplanet specifically for the Bad Toelz marionette stage. Since 2007, the dainty characters on threads launch from the mountain area of Upper Bavaria to Der Kristallplanet in order to search for a lost astronaut. However, the crew ends up encountering utterly distinct intelligent life based on crystalline structure. All the astronauts’ actions during the flight are meticulously monitored by a hidden control center on Earth. In this respect, the play does not only revolve around the contact with unknown intelligences, but can simultaneously be considered as a somber allegory of the modern surveillance state, now taking on a whole new dimension due to the emergence of modern technologies. Franke deliberately chose to employ the figures on the wire as an allegory for this story, in which the protagonists cannot move freely. On the contrary, even on stage, they are guided by another authority – the puppeteer in the background of the action.

As soon as the curtain opens, the audience immerges into the vastness of the universe and follows the thrilling adventure of a voyage into the distant unknown in company of the play’s actors. Traditional puppetry and illusionary trick technology enchant the stage into a multimedia utopian space, enabling thoughts to fly freely. Hereinafter, a press commentary from the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “It is a fascinating journey into a dark, foreign universe – and at the same time, an audacious mental experiment: Is intelligence bound to us humans, or can it exist on its own, in crystalline form, timelessly, peacefully and meaningfully?”

The puppet spectacle Der Kristallplanet – a multimedia theater piece for figures on a wire – has meanwhile become part of the permanent repertoire of the Bad Toelz Marionette Theater. For the first time, it combines classical stage effects with the latest trick technology, specifically developed by Albert Maly-Motta and Karl-Heinz Bille for this play. In addition to conventional trick techniques, special micro-tricks as well as computer animations are used. The landscape of the crystal planet, for instance, was created by Christina and Manfred P. Kage from the Institute for Scientific Photography, employing the most modern video microscopy of crystalline microstructures. The digital effects were realized by Maly-Motta, the director of the theater play.

A team of German actors and speaker renowned form stage and television, was recruited for the voice recordings, directed by the radio and TV speaker Sabine Kastius: Helmut Stange, Reinhard Glemnitz, Katja Schild, Armin Berger and Peter Weiss. Their expressive voices give the marionettes lead by the players an unmistakable individuality on stage.

Spaceship on its way from earth to the crystal planet
Astronaut crew in the cockpit
Puppeteers of Der Kristallplanet
Herbert W. Franke with two of his actors
(Photos above: Marionette Theater Bad Toelz)
Marionette Theater of Bad Toelz

Direction and computer animation: Albert Maly-Motta
Stage scenery and technology: Karl-Heinz Bille
Screenplay: Herbert W. Franke
Micro tricks: Christina and Manfred P. Kage | Institute for Scientific Photography | Castle Weissenstein
Voice actors: Armin Berger, Reinhard Glemnitz, Sabine Kastius, Katja Schild, Helmut Stange, Peter Weiss
Dialogue direction: Sabine Kastius
Puppets and stage design: Vocational School for Wood Sculpture
Marionette players: Albert Maly-Motta, Karl-Heinz Bille, Ute Huebner, Elisabeth Bille
Producers: Susanne Paech and Marionette Theater Bad Toelz

For more details and schedule, call (08041) 74176 or