toy theatres of my childhood: the giant horse

Among the precious yellowed toy-theatre sheets given to me by Bill Meilen in the 1960s, there were a couple of glorious ones from The Giant Horse or The Siege of Troy, published by Orlando Hodgson in 1833. I lost them of course, together with just about everything else from my childhood. However as luck would have it in 1985 Pollock’s Toy Theatres Ltd published a re-print from an intact copy in the V & A, and I was able to track down and purchase one of these. (I have set number 456 from a limited edition printing of 500.)

It was a beautifully produced re-print, made at a slightly larger scale than the original so that it could be used with Pollock’s Redington Theatre. It came handsomely presented in a large and sturdy pale blue envelope, complete with a bound facsimile of the play text.  This is the toy-theatre in its heyday, the story wonderfully captured by an artist giving full rein to his imagination. Below are a selection of sheets from the production. I fear there are too many to reproduce it here in full.

That concludes Toy Theatre Week at the Artlog, though I will of course make further posts about the subject from time to time.

16 thoughts on “toy theatres of my childhood: the giant horse

  1. More than 60 years ago, when I was a girl, I read a book called Roller Skates set around the turn of the last century in New York City. The girl with the roller skates and a friend, the son of an Italian fruit seller, make a paper theater from scratch and performed Twelfth Night for family and friends at Christmas time. It was only ten years or so ago, when I visited a toy museum in Santa Fe, that I realized more of the history. Your writings and visuals are a delight!

    • Thank you Kathleen for leaving a comment here. Like the characters in the novel you recall, I too made toy theatres as a child, drawn by the allure of constructed, miniature worlds. This post about The Siege of Troy was made in 2011. Since then I’ve produced a toy theatre that’s been published by the iconic Pollock’s Toyshop in London, where the traditions of Benjamin Pollock are upheld in both reproductions of toy theatres originated by him, but also in new toy theatres produced by contemporary makers. You can see my own Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre, designed for Pollock’s, at this link:

      https://www.pollocks-coventgarden.co.uk/products/hansel-gretel-toy-theatre/

  2. I am tardy in checking out this post, my loss, so fanciful. The stylization of the figures and sets a bit odd, in a wonderful way. They seem early, I was thinking the 40’s, and sure enough a careful re-reading informs me 1833. I love how the cast members are emblazoned with “Troy”, in case you forget 🙂
    They are wonderful, thanks for sharing them.
    LG

    • For me these sheets are historic toy theatre at it’s best. Printed sheets of sets and characters were originally produced as souvenirs of real productions, and as such the best of them are a window into what could be seen at the theatre during the Regency and after. There was a rage for ‘equestrian’ productions… this is why to the present many theatres bear the name ‘Hippodrome’… in which impresarios of the day dazzled audiences with plays in which battles, parades and chariot races featured living animals, and this production of The Giant Horse of Troy would have provided a wonderful opportunity for theatrical spectacle, as the character sheets with their splendid horses attest. I also have toy theatre sheets for The Battle of Waterloo and Timon the Tartar, both illustrating the extensive use of horses.

    • Thom, I have a copy of the toy theatre version of Treasure Island published by Puffin, visible in the corner of the first photo on the link you’ve given to images of Pollock’s Museum in London. The book was given to me by my friend Jane Phillips… herself a puppeteer… when I played Jim Hawkins (see HERE) long, long ago. I have it still, intact and uncut. It didn’t make it into Puppet Week on the Artlog… I had enough material for a puppet month… but I shall post it here one day.

  3. Wonderful examples through the last several posts… especially this one. Can’t help but notice how these compositions have informed your own through the years. “We are what we see.” ; ) AM

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