The story of the Theatre Royal first started when I was considering what to do after the Featherstone Hall Hotel (as I had already ruled out a house). I really enjoyed doing the garage in a toolbox project (DH&MS November 2013), because I loved the idea of a hidden surprise and wanted to do that again but on a bigger scale. I then added my love of shiny things and my reputation as a drama queen (Moi?) to the mix and started to sketch out some ideas.

Above: the auditorium and structure sketch

Above: backstage sketch.

These sketches gave me the plan I worked to for the Theatre Royal, it has double front doors which open to show a theatre auditorium, complete with audience, orchestra and players on stage.

Above: 'Limelight' floods the stage while the orchestra plays in the pit below.

But that's not all, the box is designed to be seen in the round, and double doors on the back reveal a full backstage area with dressing rooms, costume department, staircases, and stage door.

Above: The full backstage scene with costume department on the top floor, two floors of dressing rooms, and ground floor with stage door and wings.

One of the more 'off the wall' ideas I added to the project was when the theatre was on display at Miniatura. I hid an MP3 player in the orchestra pit and had it playing the music for  the scene on stage! (thank you Joyce for your idea!)

It actually took me ages to work out what performance I wanted to put on stage, I was toying with the idea of a ballet, but it was my mothers idea to use the Verdi opera, Aida which is set in ancient Egypt, as I had long been a fan all things Ancient Egyptian. This made a perfect contrast to the Edwardians sitting in the auditorium and adds even more glamour to the project!

Taking a leaf from the garage project, the outside of the theatre box is disguised to look like a vintage steamer trunk used for many years by a traveling stage company, complete with leather, brass banding, studs and locks!

Above: When closed up the theatre looks like a well traveled trunk.

The key to the whole project was the optical illusion worked into the structure of the stage, which merges the front and backstage areas so that the box is not as deep as would be expected to accommodate both.

Part of the secret is that the temple building sticking out onto the stage covers a hole in the back wall which  enabled me to create a star dressing room with greater depth.

Above: The star dressing room fits inside the temple building on the stage. (photographed before the front wall and door of the dressing room was added).

The stage area also has a false top (filled with ropes, sandbag counterweights and scenery in a real theatre) which made an extra floor for the costume department on the backstage side. This ran along the whole width of the box backstage area, and for ease of dressing was removable, and slid in on top of the stage.

The optical merger of auditorium and backstage is dealt with in the magazine series, but other illusions include sloping floor in the auditorium, stage, and balconies to draw the eye in and add optical depth to the scene without adding physical depth.

Of course a theatre needs an audience, and this was one of my biggest problems, but briefly, I chose to use already seated resin dolls, and redecorated each one individually. This took some time, as there are only so many seated models you can get - so I had the added challenge of making about a dozen different styles of doll seem like nearly 70 very different individuals!

Above:  a small section of the audience - I had to remove the arm of the chair to get the 'courting' couple in!

 I also hoped to demonstrate in this series, that I had benefited from the experience (read blunders and cock-ups here!) of building my first dolls house - Featherstone Hall Hotel! But I am not sure if my hope was a bit optimistic, as when it came to take the theatre to Miniatura, I realised, that as the box was built in my studio, it was actually to big to get out! It took the removal of the door and door frame to shoehorn it out - and get it back in again after the show!

I hope you enjoy this project - and while I know that not everyone wants to build a theatre - this project provides the perfect stage (couldn't resist that!) to demonstrate some new techniques, tips and materials which can be used on any miniature project.

I will add another page to this section with tips and techniques as soon as I have finished the rest of my website!