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Where to see a Guignol puppet show in Lyon?

As a family

Last updated date : 26/04/2023

Everybody in France has heard of Guignol, but did you know that this little wooden rascal is a child (or a ‘gone’ as people here say) of Lyon? Here are some symbolic places in the city where your children can make his acquaintance and discover these unique puppet shows.

Gnafron et Guignol au véritable théâtre guignol de la tête d’or - © Dominik Fusina

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Laurent Mourguet, Guignol’s Lyonnais father

In 1793, Laurent Mourguet was one of Lyon’s silk workers known as ‘Canuts’. Living in a time of unrest and economic hardship in France, this young man looked for a change of career. After working as a fairground stallholder, he became a tooth puller. As is still often the case today, customers dreaded visiting the dentist, so Laurent Mourguet came up with an idea to entertain his patients: he used Italian puppets, with Pulcinella as the main character, to distract their attention (and hopefully ease their pain a little!). While his shows were at first drawn entirely from the repertoire of Italian puppet theatre, Laurent Mourguet soon developed a taste for improvisation.

His sideline was met with immediate success and, in 1804, Laurent Mourguet officially became a professional puppeteer. He created his own characters: Gnafron, followed by the famous Guignol, who is said to be the spitting image of his father.

Guignol, a children’s puppet?

When Laurent Mourguet created Guignol, he had in mind a spirited young Canut silk-worker, prepared to fight the powers that be and defend social justice. In the shows back then, Guignol commented on current topics affecting the day-to-day lives of people in Lyon. Guignol puppet shows were originally aimed at adults. It was not until the 1950s that the first children’s Guignol puppet shows were performed. Today, these shows are written to entertain and amuse both children and their parents (through the use of double meanings), so Guignol puppet theatre is something that the whole family can enjoy together.

Four places to see Guignol puppet theatre in Lyon

Lyon obviously has no shortage of excellent places to see Guignol and his friends. Here is a selection of four iconic venues to discover this traditional puppet show with your children.

The most bucolic: the 'Véritable théâtre Guignol du Parc de la Tête d'Or'

Véritable théâtre guignol du parc de la Tête d’Or - © Dominik Fusina

One of the reasons for Guignol’s popularity is the famous French film La Grande Vadrouille (Don't Look Now... We're Being Shot At!). It features an outdoor Guignol puppet theatre (in Paris, but never mind that!), surrounded by tall trees. In many people’s minds, therefore, this children’s puppet theatre should be performed outside surrounded by greenery. If that’s how you prefer it, then you will be delighted by the 'Véritable Théâtre Guignol du Parc de la Tête d’Or'. 

In the heart of Lyon’s green lung, the VTGPTO has entertained children and adults since 1948, putting on plays from the traditional repertoire. Once it’s over, your children can continue to have fun with the merry-go-rounds and various activities on offer in this wonderful park.

The most historical: Théâtre Guignol de Lyon

Would you like to get back to the rebellious nature of Guignol? Make your way to Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon) to experience the TGL. Next to the Musée des Arts de la Marionnette (puppet museum) (an opportunity to strike two items off your bucket list at once), the Théâtre Guignol de Lyon has inherited more than 250 puppets handed down through the generations. 

Today, the company M.A. has taken up the torch, working to recreate the satirical comedy of the original. Among the theatre’s productions, the family shows stand out for covering contemporary topics like screen addiction and pollution, to keep the tradition of Guignol alive while bringing it up to date. Long live Guignol and his cheeky attitude!

Musée des Arts de la Marionnette - © Muriel Chaulet


Musée des Arts de la Marionnette (MAM, i.e., Puppetry Museum)

In the heart of Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon), in the building of the Gadagne Museum, the Musée des Arts de la Marionnette (Puppetry Museum) reveals a world where entertainment, illusions and emotions come together. This interactive and participative experience takes you out of the role of spectator as you step into the shoes of a puppeteer over the course of a visit.

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The most Canut: Guignol, un gone de Lyon by the company Daniel Streble

Standing on top of Croix-Rousse hill since 1993, in the Salle de la Ficelle, the Guignol, un Gone de Lyon theatre is a family story spanning the generations since 1929. Here, DS serves up a classic Guignol repertoire, including traditional plays, parodies and enchanting shows brought up to date. It does not hesitate to touch on current and future issues, through the famous puppet’s irreverent humour and thick Lyonnais accent. 

After the show, don’t miss the guided tour behind the scenes, including the amazing wall of 150 puppets. The theatre’s exceptional collection contains 360 puppets, the oldest of which are 220 years old, as well as 850 texts from 1867 to the present day!

The most transgenerational: Maison de Guignol

Maison de Guignol shows are performed in a setting that would have been familiar to Mourguet, creator of Lyon’s beloved puppet, at the foot of Montée du Gourguillon in Old Lyon, opposite the Café du Soleil.

Since 1965, Maison de Guignol has put on daytime Guignol shows all year round, offering laughs for all the family. In the evening, it puts on café-théâtre shows

The youngest: the 'Véritable Théâtre Guignol du Grand Hôtel-Dieu'

Véritable théâtre guignol de l’hôtel Dieu - © Rémy Vallin

Lyon’s newest Guignol puppet theatre is the Véritable Théâtre Guignol du Grand Hôtel-Dieu. The former hospital on the banks of the Rhône, near Place Bellecour, is a landmark that is cherished by the people of Lyon. Today, this iconic building has become a multi-faceted place, with a hotel, restaurants and shops. People also come for a stroll through its large courtyards and arcades. It would of course not be complete without a Guignol puppet theatre for children. In a modern setting, it puts on shows all year round, with the same repertoire as the theatre in the park.