The present study investigates the presence and evolution of shadow theatre in the Great Castle (Heraklion) around 1900-1970. More specifically, it explores the changes in theatrical structure as well as the social and cultural modifications that affected the evolution of Karagiozis (the main character of Greek shadow theatre), while it also refers to puppet theatre.
The material of the study consists of information indexed in the Vikelaia Municipal Library newspaper archive during 1910-1940. Contemporary and older literature on shadow theatre and puppetry was also used, as well as oral testimonies, especially after the Second World War. The archival material was then chronologically classified into three periods: a) late 19th century to 1922, b) interwar period, 1922-1940, and c) post-war period, 1945-1970.
During the first period, shadow theatre coexisted with puppet shows, while performances took place in Pringipos Square (now Eleftherias Square). This kind of popular entertainment was not morally acceptable to the «high society» of the Great Castle, so it was addressed to the popular strata. Notable elements in this decade are the absence of any reference to the puppeteers’ names, the lack of titles to their works in the local press, as well as negative comments regarding the performances and their audiences (the so-called «mortakia», or «little bums»). In 1920, the first positive comments about puppet theatre appeared due to a show on the conquest of Edirne, its musical interludes being performed initially by the Conservatoire Apollo and later played on the gramophone. Around the second period, the presence of Antonis Mollas in Heraklion brought shadow theatre all the way from the open square to the theatrical stage, with the accompaniment of a large orchestra, resulting in the acceptance of shadow theatre by the bourgeoisie. At the same time, the presence of the Asia Minor refugees transported the shadow theatre to the refugee neighbourhoods of the Great Castle. At the peak of the interwar period, the post-war “Karagiozis” declined due to the presence of both film and television, with the result that children became its target audience.