All about the Theatre Royal  project



After months of planning the follow up project to my Featherstone Hall Hotel for Dolls House & Miniature Scene magazine is revealed as an Edwardian theatre - but with a twist!

The story of the Theatre Royal first started when I was considering what to do after Featherstone Hall (as I had already ruled out a house). I really enjoyed doing the garage in a toolbox project (DH&MS November 2013), as 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.

I already knew that it would be good to show the project in progress, because so many people had been interested in how things had been done on the hall, and I wanted to take the element of surprise from the garage project and incorporate an optical 'twist' of some sort.

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

However, I have found that the joy of this project is that it is organic. I am not restricted by the confines of a house, and as I have ideas, I am incorporating them in as I go along. Already, with the auditorium nearly complete I have a couple of things I want to add to the mix - I hope that when the box next goes on display I can sort out some recorded music to play in the orchestra pit (thank you Joyce for your idea!) and I have just decided to change my stage set to another scene in the opera which will involve me cutting a hole in the stage floor!

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 travelling stage company, complete with leather, brass banding, studs and locks!

The key to the whole project is 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. The temple building sticking out into the auditorium covers a hole in the back wall of the stage which will enable me to create one of the star dressing rooms with greater depth, as the room will project into the temple. My new idea to change the scene on stage will still use this temple but will include a lower chamber where the hero and heroine come to a tragic end (don't they always in opera?)

The stage area also has a false top (filled with ropes, sandbag counterweights and scenery in a real theatre) which will make a floor for the costume department. This will run along the whole width of the box backstage area. This optical merger will be dealt with in some detail later in the series, but other illusions already used in the auditorium include sloping floor, stage, and balconies to draw the eye in and add optical depth to the scene without adding physical depth. I also create the illusion of a full orchestra in the pit with a few simple tricks.

Of course a theatre needs an audience, and this was one of my biggest problems which I will devote a whole article to soon, 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 models you can get - so I had the added challenge of making about a dozen different styles of doll seem like nearly 70 individuals! 

 I also hope to also demonstrate in this new series, that I have benefitted from the experience (read blunders and cock-ups here!) of building my first dolls house - Featherstone Hall! But I am not sure if my hope is a bit optimistic, as when it came to take the theatre to Miniatura, I realised as the box was built in my studio, it was actually to big to get out! It took the removal of the door and doorframe to shoehorn it out - and I'm not looking forward to getting it out again in September for the next Miniatura!

I hope you enjoy this new project (with the added jeopardy of organic idea development!) 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. Wish me luck - or should it be 'break a leg!'