Tuesday, 4 December 2012

"Penny plain, tuppence coloured"

"She reached into the carton on the bed and took out one of the metal rods.  Like you, she said accusingly to the little figure attached to the end of it.   A slide, she explained, handing it to me for closer inspection; the characters and the props were all attached to slides, making it possible to move them in and out between the panels.

The figure of the Don had been lithographed in four colours on heavy-stock paper and then cut out with scissors like a paper doll.  He was part of a complete Don Giovanni set which had originally belonged to the Baroness von Schadenheim, and which the Baroness had given to Helle in token of their friendship -- although that,  Helle said, was another story.  Evidently the tradition of the model theatre came into existence in England around 1800;  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a charming essay on the subject, in which he described the pleasures of purchasing, for a mere two pennies, a set of lithographed sheets containing all the figures and props and backdrops needed to create a whole new world.

And it was a whole new world, Helle said, which she and Flo were about to create -- specifically, the bog world of The Girl who Trod on a Loaf's second act, the world Inger drops into when she takes that fateful step onto the loaf of bread."

The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf  Kathryn Davis


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