22
Nov
08

What are Toy Theatres?

titleshop1A Toy Theatre is a miniature stage, built in card or wood and brightly coloured. Children perform plays on it using characters and scenes cut out from printed sheets and text written in a simple “playbook”. The audience would normally be family and friends and the auditorium the front room. Adults too are known to use them, especially the large elaborate versions published in Germany and Denmark.

As well as being a flexible means of expression, the sheets represent a vibrant folk art derived from the full size theatre. It is a unique record of real plays and stage presentations, particularly of the nineteenth century. Many enthusiasts collect and study old sheets for this reason.

13
Jul
20

A new play for the Toy Theatre

Robin Hood

We have created a new internet version of the play “Robin Hood”, which we first published in 1976. This has A4 size scenery to fit our Grand Theatre and includes a full colour edition as well as a plain edition, if you like colouring yourself. There is also a new note to explain how to perform Toy Theatre plays. All free to download here.

We hope that you enjoy this.

Robin Hood coloured

Robin Hood plain

Robin Hood playbook cover

Robin hood book

Performing toy theatre plays

30
Jun
20

Wonderful things

IMG_20200630_0001

One must admire the very welcome initiative of the British Museum to digitise and put many of its treasures on line for anyone in the world to enjoy for free. This includes quite a lot of Toy Theatre prints, including over 60 images from the great publisher William West, which would normally not be seen elsewhere.

If you visit their website and then search the catalogue, you can look at the full entries for everything to get masses of details or just tick the “images only” box.

Put in “Ralph Thomas” to get over 650 items. Many of these “items” consist of multiple sheets such as scenes for a play or in one case a collection of about 50 West combats. Ralph Thomas, a lawyer, sold his collection to the museum in 1886. It is the oldest that exists. William West was still publishing when he was a boy and his mother bought him one copy of every sheet remaining, what a mother! After West’s business folded he managed to buy a box containing the original drawings for some of the very earliest plays. Other treasures that you can actually download include the beautiful coloured scenes for “Battle of Waterloo”, “Olympic Revels”, “Aladdin” and the “Invasion of Russia” and characters for obscure plays.

In addition put in “Toy Theatre” and other items will appear in full glory including a set of Hodgson scenes for “King Richard the Third” that make an interesting comparison with the still available Green version.

19
Jun
20

Mysterious Mr.Mathews

IMG_20200619_0001

We have carried out some research and discovered that Mathews, a fairly late Toy Theatre publisher, was not the person everyone thought he was! We have also discovered how his interest in the Toy Theatre developed and why he had rather strange views on who was important. Also we now know two exact addresses from where he conducted his business in Acton and another where he lived later. The note which can be downloaded here reveals all these secrets for the first time! We have revised it to include new information from Val Copley.

Mathews notes revised

16
Jun
20

A new Toy Theatre

STAGE FRONTIn 2020 the only way that you can experience a live theatrical performance with a large cast and lots of changes of scene is if you are lucky enough to have a Toy Theatre in your home. With this in mind we have produced a brand new Toy Theatre, based on traditional designs, which you can down load here. It uses A4 size scenery and can be built using materials many people will already have in their home, so it suits the present time very well.

The “Grand Theatre” also has a new booklet to help you build it. The 33 pages also include lots of special effect techniques that can be used for any Toy Theatre. If you are very clever you can set up your printer to print it as an A5 page size booklet.

STAGE FRONT

HOW TO BUILD THE GRAND THEATRE

01
Mar
19

Mr.Webb and Mr.Fraser

Dodie Masterman’s son has kindly given me notes that his mother made in 1987 of an interview with Mr.Fraser who had worked in Webb’s Toy Theatre shop in the 1920s. I have made a transcript which you may download.

It talks mainly about tinsel and seems to refer to a photo that has a man, a girl and a dog in it.

Webb and Mr.Fraser

20
Apr
14

Skelt’s Juvenile Drama

waterman

We have been republishing original nineteenth century English Toy Theatre plays under the title of “Skelt’s Juvenile Drama”. The Skelts were one of the most prolific publishers and all these titles derive from their productions. We have stopped selling these and are now making them available as free downloads, the only condition being that you must not make commercial use of them.

Most of these plays are “plain”, which is the way collectors prefer but a few are in colour mainly where the original sheets that we have photographed were coloured.
Wood Daemon
Mary the Maid of the Inn
Der Freischutz internet
Captain Ross
Richard Turpin
George Barnwell
Waterman

Turpin robbing the mail
George Barnwell

07
Jun
11

Danish Toy Theatre publications

In what must be a record for a republication of original Toy Theatre series, Netherlands expert Harry Oudekerk has made available virtually all the publications of the Danish Illustrated Family Journal. Between 1914 and 1931 this popular magazine “gave away” original stage fronts, scenery, characters and texts that readers could cut out and perform. They illustrate a transition between the traditional publications of Alfred Jacobsen and the modernistic productions of Carl Aller. The Toy Theatre stages that could be made up from the pages of the journal progressed in design with innovative methods of moving the characters and use of background panoramas. In all some 14 Toy Theatre stages and 53 different play titles were issued plus various novelty sheets, shadow theatres etc. Harry Oudekerk has republished most of these sheets in 12 volumes that can either be purchased or downloaded for free via his storefront on the www.lulu.com website. He has other similar publications in mind including the pruduction of the Spanish Toy Theatre publishers, Seix and Barral. Be warned however, if you do decide to download these volumes they can be very large, over 300MB in some cases!
07
Jun
11

Danish Toy Theatre Shop

There is a Toy Theatre shop in Copenhagen! Oldfux opened one for the sale of their reprinted traditional sheets, although it is not open every day. Their reprints include the work of early Danish publishers, Winckelman, Shcreiber and other German publishers and Trentsensky of Vienna. These delightful sheets greatly enhance the possibility of enlarging collections or performing period plays. Full details are available on their website www.oldfux.dk

 

26
Jan
11

Toy Theatre is over Two Hundred years old!

Early in 1811 William West, a London print seller, published a sheet showing eight characters from the popular pantomime, “Harlequin and Mother Goose”. The print was in the style of children’s lottery prints, each figure being drawn inside a box with a caption underneath. It is now believed that the plate was engraved for William West by John Green who later claimed to have been “The original inventor”. Green did not draw the figures but copied them from various sources.

The publication appears to have been an outstanding success, 5000 copies were sold immediately. West followed this with the publication of similar souvenir sheets in two or three plates covering at least 21 other plays during 1811. The “box” style was quickly abandoned.

West was not alone. Two lady print sellers, Mrs. Jameson of Duke’s Court off Bow Street and Mrs.Hebberd of Marylebone each published similar souvenir sheets during 1811. In all we know of 35 publications that year covering 30 separate play titles.

A year later stage fronts, wooden stages and scenery made their appearance and the Toy Theatre, as we know it, began. The events of 1811 were however the origin.

Here are copies of typical 1811 sheets for you to download.

“Harlequin and Mother Goose” is the original sheet engraved by Green and published by West. It is the “missing link” between children’ lottery prints and the Toy Theatre.

“Council of Ten” is an example of one of the earliest West publications. It shows the principal characters in that play, which was also known as the, “Lake of the Grotto,” performed on and around the water tank at the Sadlers Wells Theatre. Notice that two characters appear to float on small rafts! The two sheets of this play were copied and republished by George Skelt and these are reproduced here.

West original

Council of Ten

02
Oct
10

current publishers

ENGLAND:

Pollock’s Toy Theatres, reprints of nineteenth century toy theatres and plays and adapted plays for easy performance.

Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust, reprints of nineteenth century plays and related publications.

Hugo Brown, reproductions of original toy theatre plays and prints by J.K.Green, his ancestor.

Toy Theatre (Trevor Griffin), new plays in traditional style, reprints. publishers of these web pages.

Joseph Hope-Williams. New toy theatre plays and related material made using traditional styles and processes.

Toy Theatre Gallery. Reproductions of original toy theatre plays and related material.

GERMANY:

m+n reprise, reprints of Sholz plays and theatre.

DENMARK:

Priors Dukketeatre, original publisher, toy theatres and plays, reprints of early sheets.

Oldfux, reprints of early sheets and new productions.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

Model Theater at Kannik’s Korner, German and Danish Toy Theatre plays, English texts, original and reproduction.

Please advise us of any changes and additions to the above!

 




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