The Théâtre Royal de Toone is the only traditional puppet theater still active in Brussels.
It was around 1830 that Antoine Genty called "Toone" (nickname for Antoine) opened his "Poechenellekelder" (puppets cellar).
Far from restricting himself to the past, José Géal - Toone VII - opened the Théâtre Royal de Toone to Europe by adapting his shows in English but also in Spanish, Italian and German.
This open-mindedness projected the Théâtre Royal de Toone on the European and world stage.
The Théâtre Royal de Toone in Brussels is an authentic and original theater, steeped in Brussels’ history and culture! Ideally located next to the Grand Place, one can discover the roots of Brussels culture in a venerable house dating back to 1696.
The Théâtre Royal de Toone (TRT) is one of the places dearest to the heart of Brussels’ population
TRT, an adult puppet theater unique in Europe, is situated in a typical attic with its colorfully festooned benches and cushions nailed to the rough wooden planks... There is also a doll-making factory, a library and a puppet museum, where the "retired” puppets are hung, heroes of Toone’s past and favorite characters of puppeteers around the world.
Since 1830, The Théâtre Royal de Toone has been carrying on the long tradition of popular puppet theater. Each Toone puppeteer is inducted by his predecessor and he manages the theater and puppet museum in the Impasse Sainte-Petronille, a well-hidden treasure in Brussels. Nicolas Géal - Toone (nickname for Antoine), the eighth of the name, is the voice of all the puppets and creates new shows as well as adapting famous pieces of the classical theater repertoire.
The puppet theaters trace their origin back to a decree by Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V, hated by the population, who closed the theaters to prevent them from becoming rallying places that would have increased the population’s hostility towards him. The players were then replaced by "poechenellen" (puppets) in clandestine theaters.
In the early nineteenth century, Brussels puppet theaters were one of the most successful adult entertainments for people from humble backgrounds and were implanted in poor neighborhoods. Puppet theaters allowed great freedom of tone and the vast repertoire takes its roots from popular legends, medieval tales of chivalry, operas, religious or historical plays and freely adapted into series.
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This was a popular mode of education as the illiterate people could not afford the opera or the great theaters and puppet shows therefore allowed them to keep abreast of cultural news.
Today Toone VIII - Nicolas Géal- and his six puppeteers play a wide repertoire, from opera ("Faust," "Carmen" ...) to fantasy literature ("Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde," "Dracula "...)
Programming is based on theater classics such as "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand, "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas, "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare and "Tijl Uilenspiegel" by Charles De Coster.
Toone lends his voice to all the characters while his 6 puppeteers manipulate the puppets. Seven people are therefore needed per show:
- Toone for all voices
- 6 puppeteers to operate the "poechenellen"
The puppeteers do not do the voices for practical reasons as they pass the puppets to each other, according to the staging. A puppeteer does not necessarily manipulate the same puppet throughout the show.
The plays are however revisited and adapted ... You will have no choice but to laugh by when you attend the show which is funny, original and directed at all audiences.
The Toone theatre is open all year except in January, the only vacation month.
Currently, the Toone permanent museum on the first floor of the main building can be visited for free during the show hours. (In the near future, the extension works planned for the Théâtre Royal de Toone will allow access to the museum outside of show time).
On the ground floor, the traditional folk tavern is open daily.
Maximum number of participants: 120
Traditional Brussels’ puppet theater - Typical café
Location: Rue du Marché aux Herbes, 66, 1000 Brussels