Monday, 30 July 2012

A Blast from the Past (4)

Make your own World of the Theatre 

I first got this book in a discount book shop in Oxford back in 1984 when I started college.   I built it and put on performances as one of our house contributions to rag week that year. ... Of course the performances were black tie and ballgown dos with an interval. lol

The book was written and edited by Rosemary Lowndes and Claude Kailer.  From the book could be made a model of the stage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (measuring about a 12" cube) along with the sets to stage a production of either the opera La Boheme or the ballet Sleeping Beauty.  I made only the sets for Sleeping Beauty.

The stage, sets, backdrops, figures, drapes and tabs are produced in sturdy enough card and cut out and scored, folded and glued as per the excellent instructions to produce a truly magnificent little theatre.

As I was putting on a twice nightly performance, I made some alterations and additions.

A black screen/booth was erected around the stage front; speakers for music were set up behind the stage; some of the figures were adapted to move onto the sets; lighting was built into the Fly Galleries using black card and wheat grain bulbs; and 'cobwebs' made from a grey hairnet were used for the bedroom scene.

The whole thing must have taken at least a couple of hundred hours to build, but it was worth every second and a joy to build as this is a truly amazing model.  The detail in the finished theatre and the obvious thought that has gone into the production of this book is outstanding and it is incredible how much space the completed stage and sets take up considering the size of the book. ... And no, I'm not on commission!  I think of all the models I have made in my time, this has to rank as one of my favourites.  I love it!

I believe the authors had a dispute with the publishers and the book was withdrawn which is a great pity.  I donated my model to the college when I left as it trained teachers and I thought it may be useful for something.  I longed to get another and eventually, to my unbounded joy, I found some stocked in a little model theatre shop in Covent Garden.  I bought three of them because I didn't know if I would ever find them again.  This, of course, was the days before the internet and the likes of ebay and Amazon  

The book can be obtained from Amazon at least now, but mainly used examples in various conditions.  I would highly recommend this kit to anyone who likes models as it really is a little gem!

The book ...

The stage ...

A view of the theatre front showing the famous frontage and tabs of the Royal Opera House.  A small wheat grain bulb illuminated them when down.  Sorry about the picture - it's been enlarged!
Some shots of book pages ...

The Palace backdrop used in Acts 1 & 4.
The Stage Directions are cleverly and usefully printed on the rear of the backdrop for the scenes that particular one is used in.
The set floor showing where the scenery sub-assemblies and figures should be glued.
Underneath each set floor is printed excellent instructions for building the set.
Figures and set items are printed on both sides.  Even bits of the set that aren't seen are printed showing the bare boards and wooden framing - so the theatre even looks realistic from behind.  Brilliant!
Certain sets have drapes that hang from the fly galeries.  I cut out all the gaps between figures' arms and legs.  This is a bit fiddly and not essential, but it did look better.

How I set it up for the performances ...

Behind the scenes ...

The sets are slid on from the wings and the curtain, backdrops and tabs are inserted from the top into slots in the Fly Galleries.  You can just see the added lighting on the Fly Gallery and a desk lamp and torches etc were used for different lighting effects.

The various scenes ...

Prologue: The Christening
Act 1: The Spell
Act 2: The Vision

Act 3: The Awakening
Act 4: The Wedding


  1. I want one!!! There are some great looking backgrounds there. I treid to make such a thing for my daughter..but somehow it just didn´t arous any interest in her so the project failed..maybe she was too young.

    1. Yes, they really are that good, Paul! Your daughter will love it ... I should think it would be one of those childhood things that you would remember into adulthood. It's magical!

  2. Replies
    1. Great stuff, Paul! If you have any problems or you see this in time, I have a spare you can have. It's old and brown round the edges, but it's complete and the edges won't affect the bits you need to cut out. They take a lot of work, but are well worth the effort. ... Well, I think so! :-)