Friday, 11 January 2019

Toy Theatre Show and a Slap Up Tea

Oh, dear, I am not writing my blog much - I am feeling like Laocoon struggling with the snake (though I am not so muscular, I hope, or so male as he was).  I love putting together this book but it's becoming quite a project, with more to read than I ever thought and so many more interviews to do than I ever guessed.    


But we did get in a small group to attend the annual Pollock's Toy Theatre children's show with splendid tea.  This was my third time, and they are such fun.  The audience is divided between children between the ages of 3 and 7, and grown up toy theatre enthusiasts, and this year we watched "Aladdin."

The performance, as usual, took place in the Art Workers' Guild, a most fascinating building set in a 200 year old house in a quiet London square.   The house has several meeting rooms which various artistic and creative organisations like to hire - you can see the striking, portrait-lined main hall in the background of my pictures. The Art Workers Guild itself is a group of people working in the applied and fine arts. In the past, painters and sculptors were considered a social cut above the mere artisans who embroidered, made furniture, did metalwork, or created music, and the guild was begun with the aim of breaking down some of the barriers and respecting both types of artistic expression.   

The Guild is worth a post of its own, but if you are interested, go to the link, where you'll see some of the things they do. 


The toy theatre used in the performance is a large one, but even so it is not all that large, so is only suitable for playing to small groups who are able to gather round and see the stage.  
The brightly coloured traditional characters are fastened to sticks and pushed on and off the stage by the puppet-master, who also performs all the dialogue. 


Here is the puppet master, Joe - I mean the one with the beard.    


Although the theatre designs are completely traditional, some people now fit them with little electric lights, so coloured filters can create different atmosphere to suit the backgrounds which lift in and out to suit the story.


Here is Aladdin meeting the wicked wizard in town. 



And here he is stranded in the cave where the magic lamp, the magic ring and all the treasure is stored.



And here is Aladdin's wife planning the  magician's downfall. 

The children loved it. Some might think it is too low tech for these days of iPads and Imax theatres, and it is is certainly very different from what they would normally see. But it reminded me of the way that children play themselves - Joe did all the voices with great gusto, moving his little cut out characters around as if they were toys, cackling horribly for the wicked wizard and sounding suitably foreign and mysterious for the genies.   The kids completely related.  


Afterwards everyone wanted to see how it worked. The organisers had a stall selling  large printed sheets of backgrounds and characters for just £1 each, and they were going very well.  


One small member of our party bought a sheet, eager to create a model theatre out of a cardboard box, and I heard it turned out very well at home.


The tea afterwards, in an adjoining room, was truly fab, with homemade cakes, baguettes and marmite, chocolate stars, tangerines and other delicious things.  The outing was declared a huge success by everyone and I think we could well return next year.  

I've found a copy of a 1927 silent newsreel feature which shows Mr. Benjamin Pollock actually making and displaying one of his theatres. In those days he was considered to be a relic of the old Victorian London that many people still remembered.   Sorry for the poor quality - the original film has been transferred to digital pretty badly. It is nice that Pollocks' toy theatres are exactly the same as they were then. You can buy everything you need at their quaint shop in Scala Street, London, or at least you could the last time I popped in there a couple of years ago.  

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