christmas ephemera

Boxing Day is the traditional time for trips to the theatre, for pantomimes and fairy tales and ballets. The day when dance companies dust off their productions of Nutcracker and Cinderella and the great opera houses schedule performances of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges. It’s all glitter and transformation scenes, mice into footmen, pumpkins into coaches, kingdoms of sweets, dancing snowflakes and gingerbread cottages studded with bon-bons and dusted with sugar.

When I was a theatre director and designer, every Christmas I would hand-make cards for my friends and family. Always trick-cards… slatted for transformations or fold-out and pop-up… and always a little theatre or stage set. One year a complete ‘Mother Goose’ pop-up toy theatre with a three dimensional set and a cast of Nursery Rhyme characters to populate it. Here’s a card from those far-off days, a fold-out and pop-up Punch and Judy booth. On the cusp of Christmas Day and Boxing Day, it seems a suitable offering from my past to show on the Artlog. I had only two of these booths left, one sent earlier this year to a friend who I knew would appreciate it, and this one, which will be included in my forthcoming retrospective.

15 thoughts on “christmas ephemera

  1. This is the most wonderful Christmas card! It must have taken you ages to put these together… but I’m sure that they were very well loved by everyone who got one. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I am loopy about Punch and Judy, alas being in the States we haven’t many chances of seeing a performance. I have explored the theme through my own work, and through posts, but some day I want to create my own theatre with the oddball cast of characters.
    I love the satyr decoration, a bit louche, perfect.

    • Punch & Judy is a marvellous thing. Politically incorrect of course, but I’ve yet to see a politically correct Punch & Judy show that’s worthy of the name. Punch is anarchic, a shrieking, murdering, riotous Everyman who ends up besting the hangman and even death himself. This is not supposed to be a tale of contrition and redemption, but a chaotic voyage to the brink of madness and beyond. Have you ever seen the 1967 Harrison Birtwhistle opera Punch & Judy? It is wonderfully violent and un-reconstructed!

  3. Pingback: puppet week at the artlog « Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  4. Pingback: Under the Poppy » Blog Archive » Toy theatre, or Yes, we are all playthings

  5. Oh how I wish I had one of these cards … I’m having a wonderful time with the maquettes of Herve AND the wolf, or perhaps they’re having it with me. Who’s really the toy in this toy theatre?

    And thank you greatly for encouraging attendance at the Victorian brothel that is Under the Poppy. You’ve been such a staunch fan and early adopter … Now, we MUST get you and Peter over here for the show!

    • Glad you think so. I’ve been reading Kathe Koja’s most recent novel Under the Poppy, and this little Punch and Judy booth looks as though it would fit very comfortably into her created scenario of a puppet theatre being run out of a Victorian Brothel! (Now that’s something you don’t read about every day!) At the time I made this, long, long ago, I remember wondering whether anyone would notice that the rather muscular satyrs supporting the proscenium arch had genitals. (If anyone did notice then they didn’t mention the fact!)

        • I can wholeheartedly recommend it Zoe. I think you’ll love it and be lost in it! She uses language so beautifully, so creatively, and her characters lodge in the mind. I’d like to know them and have them as my friends!

          • PS. When you’ve read it you’ll be able to contact Kathe on her website. You can find it on my blogroll. (Click on Under the Poppy.)

            Reading your recent e-mail to me in which you wrote about the Tales of Hoffman and the ‘dark’ aspects of The Nutcracker, it crossed my mind how much you’d love Kathe’s novel! You’re in for a real treat. I’m about to begin my campaign to encourage her to write a sequel. The great thing about knowing novelists whose work you admire, is that you can badger them to get going on the next book!

      • These are so wonderful Clive! I love it absolutely – the fringing, the drapes, the carnal caryatids, the reveal, the transformation, the Deus Ex Machina, the mischief, the sprightly, Puckish delight! All marvellous, in the true sense.

        I DID notice the genitals. But then I would, wouldn’t I (to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies)!

        An interesting point you make there about Pantomime and festive tales of transformation and reveal – the gender-crossing of Twelfth Night or the animation of the statue in A Winter’s Tale, for example. I had not really noticed that before, and for that, I thank you!

        • I occasionally while away the odd five minutes trying to count the genitals on show in your Illustrated Man print (Artlog visitors click HERE to see it and try counting for yourselves) though I have yet to come up with the same answer twice! It’s quite a puzzle, but I shall persist.

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