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Issue 11 – January 2007

 

WELCOME

 

Welcome to the eleventh news bulletin for “Hugo’s Toy Theatre”.

 

It has been quite an eventful few months since my last newsletter. The highlights of which were a wonderful performance given in tribute to George Speaight held at the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden and the Printing The Toy Theatre Exhibition at St Brides Library in London. In the intervening time, I have also been extremely lucky to see a few private collections and the King collection at the Museum of London.

 

The past few months have also seen the rollout of my first few reproductions. I have been offering the books of words for sometime and now I have three full plays for sale. These are Pollock’s coloured versions of “Whittington & His Cat”, “The Miller & His Men” and “The Waterman”. They are printed on high quality parchment card and they come complete with playbook and a short history of the play. This is all packaged in a brown envelope in an attempt to recapture the look and feel of the original productions. This is the first time these plays have been available to the public for more than half a century, and goes someway to achieving my ultimate aim in the toy theatre world, of making the toy theatre more available to everyone. I hope in time to re-release most if not all of Pollock’s plays in tuppence colour. Green’s original versions are so few, so as not to be able to create a complete coloured version, and even the penny plain versions tend to be made up of inconsistent sources. Perhaps once the Pollock plays have been exhausted, I may desire to release a few Green plays.

 

Web-site Update

 

I have managed to find a few hours to update several parts of the web-site.

 

Most notable are the complete revision of the Portraits and the Proscenium & Orchestra sections of the Images.

 

I have also added a completely new section: The Events Page. On this page you will find details of all up & coming events in the toy theatre world, well, mostly within the UK. If you know of an event not listed, just drop me a line and I will update the page accordingly. On the Events Page you will also find a record of previous events including the recent performance at the Theatre Museum dedicated to George Speaight, and a collection of media files.

 

The last addition to the web-site, is Appendix 3 in the History Section. This is a complete chronology of items produced by JK Green, as far as I know of them.

 

See the “Updates” page for details of other changes.

 

Museum of London & The King Collection

 

I had the pleasure of viewing a few collections in recent months. Most notable of these was at the Museum of London, which houses the King Collection. Jonathan King being the son of Jonathan King who was Green’s agent on a few of the latter’s publications. The most important parts of the collection as far as Green was concerned are an incomplete coloured 1d version of Jonathan Bradford and a small collection of theatrical portraits many of which I hadn’t seen before, including two sheets of combats by JK Green’s son (my great-great-grandfather) George James Green.

 

The Jonathan Bradford sheets were quite stunning, but unfortunately I cannot reproduce them here, as the reproduction fees are prohibitive, so if you want to see them you will need to make an appointment to see the collection for yourselves. I have a few sheets from M Skelts ½d version of Jonathan Bradford and both the characters and scenes represented were remarkably close in appearance to Green’s larger version. From the various sources available to us like AE Wilson, George Speaight and my own researches, it is believed that M Skelt started in the toy theatre business around 1835. Green’s Jonathan Bradford was dated in August 1833. So it would appear that Skelt copied Green. It was a practice which Green himself employed, and he was known to have copied some of Skelts work in return.

 

Details about the Museum of London can be found on their web-site at  http://www.molg.org.uk/english/ 

 

Green’s Positions

 

Peter Baldwin was kind enough to find and send to me a couple of examples of Green’s early works. “Green’s Clown Positions” and “Green’s Columbine Positions”. These were dated in March 1812. It was made all the more fascinating, as Peter also sent copies of William West’s “The White Cat” dated in 1825, which had the same characters, only in reverse. With the aid of today’s modern computers I was able to reverse and superimpose West’s characters over those of Green. The result was an almost exact match. At first I thought it proved that West had actually copied Green, but I was wrong. Peter told me that West’s 1825 version of the “The White Cat” was actually a reproduction of his 1811 version. Therefore Green copied West as usual.

The images etc can be seen in Chapter 2 of the History Section.

 

The First Toy Theatre

 

Just after the New Year, I was extremely lucky to view George Speaight’s collection through the dedicated efforts of Horatio Blood. One item in the collection stood out amongst all the others for me. It was titled “Punch’s Show” and printed by I Green. The dull grey page depicted a small gathering of street urchins around the base of a Punch & Judy booth. It was not dated but it is believed to have been produced about 1808-1810. Below the picture was an 8cm disc, with Punch & Judy characters posed in various positions. It was obviously part of a kit to make a Punch & Judy booth, with the disc representing the characters to perform. Just rotate the disc and new characters would appear on stage. The page was cut on three sides, but the forth side was torn. Maybe it came out of a book or just maybe it included a diagram and instructions of how to make the booth. Was this the first toy theatre kit? It is just possible that Green really did invent the toy theatre after all!

The images etc can be seen in Chapter 2 of the History Section.

 

The Plays

 

I have been so busy with finding items etc that I haven’t spent much time on updating the plays on this web-site, however, my researches have located a few of the missing sheets, most notably Wing No.37 has been found and it was worth waiting for (and like waiting for a bus, I have now seen it 4 times in as many weeks). I have now updated the Wings pages accordingly.

 

The remaining three missing images are as follows:-

 

Character Sheets

Wreck Ashore – sheets 4 & 6

Tom Thumb – sheet 4

 

All scenes, tricks and wings are now complete.

 

So if anyone out there has a copy of any of these I would be delighted to hear from you.

 

Click here to see the complete WINGS page.

 

Items for Sale

 

Due to popular demand I am now listing a few more items for sale.

 

“Re-production Playbooks”, these have been expanded to include all the playbooks in my collection. Each book costs £5 and are reproduced in full colour on good quality paper. They are much easier to use than the original playbooks and stand up well to constant thumbing through the pages, most unlike the originals.

 

“Re-production Plays”, currently restricted to just two plays; “Whittington & His Cat”  and “The Miller & His Men”, both with Pollock’s imprint and in the full colour of the original. These are printed on high quality parchment card and are, in my humble opinion, quite stunning and it is extremely difficult to tell them apart from the originals. The total price is £30 each including Post & Packaging.

 

Click here to see the new Sales Page.

 

Future Event

 

Plans are afoot to bring about “Greens Toy Theatre Festival” to celebrate Green’s 200th anniversary of starting in business. This is expected to take place in 2008, with a festival of events and displays. It is hoped to have all the leading protagonists, who will each be there to perform one of Green’s plays. There will be an exhibition of Green’s works and much more. We are actively searching for a London venue.

 

 

More news in a few months time.

 

Hugo Brown

Great Great Great Grandson of JK Green.

 

hugo100(at)btinternet.com

 

Hugo Brown

Ash House

43 Ely Road

Queen Adelaide

Ely

Cambs

CB7 4TZ