Shockheaded Peter

Institute History

  • 2000 June Screenwriters Lab


Medical and artistic polymath Heinrich Hoffman wrote and illustrated the Struwwelpeter poems in 1884 as a reaction to the "long tales, stupid collections of pictures, moralizing stories beginning and ending with 'the good child must be truthful' or 'children must be kept clean'" of his time. Gruesome yet invigorating, Shockheaded Peter and his lunatic nursery of miscreants have horrified and fascinated generations ever since.

A hilariously macabre junk opera in the spirit of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, SHOCKHEADED PETER is a staging of this classic 19th Century children's book. Deliciously morbid, occasionally chilling, and entirely unique, the production illuminates Hoffman's cautionary tales and his horrible cast of disobedient children with a whimsical combination of grand guignol, puppetry and Victorian melodrama. Set in a distorted Victorian toy theatre, demoting hydraulics and hi-tech machinations in favor of a pop-up setting to evoke the lost world of Victorian theatrical illusion, the barrel organ and the fairground slide-show: an advent calendar crossed with a late 19th Century pop video.

So sweet, so sinister, and so completely outrageous, SHOCKHEADED PETER is a hilarious black comedy for sophisticated children, their dreadful parents, and anyone who has ever sucked his or her thumb.

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