Activities: Make Your Own Victorian Toy Theatre
Toy theatres were a popular form of entertainment in Victorian times. Once made you could buy plays to put on - hundreds of popular West End plays were reproduced for toy theatres. This Pollock’s Toy Theatre is a genuine Victorian theatre complete with stage, scenery and characters.
This activity uses sharp tools. Children should be supervised.
This Toy Theatre kit is an original Pollack's Toy Theatre design.
Print out the complete set of templates here. Taking the templates for the front panel of the theatre (T1 & T2), align together and stick onto sturdy cardboard, (approx 150 gsm). Cut out the basic outline, following the lines on the template.
Next, very carefully cut out the centre.
Use a scalpel to cut out the more tricky bits. This will also create a neater finish.
Take a knife or a pair of scissors and holding a ruler against the first horizontal folding line at the top of the panel, score down the line with the blade. Make sure you don't cut through the paper. Repeat this for the rest of the horizontal folding lines and then move onto the vertical folding lines and cut along the two diagonal lines for the top corners.
Start to fold the scored lines, starting at the top (See Fig. 1 in the printable instructions), fold the top horizontal line back and the next forward and fold the two diagonal top lines in, creating a 3D front panel for the theatre (Fig. 2). Glue tabs in the top left and top right corners – clothes pegs may come in handy at this point to hold it all together whilst waiting for the glue to dry.
Print out the side panel holders (T3) and stick onto sturdy card, (approx 150 gsm). Cut out using the lines on the template, including the slots that will hold your various backgrounds and set pieces (See Fig. 3). Score along the folding edges and fold as per Fig. 4.
For the main structure of theatre you will need much stronger card. A thick cardboard box is good for this. For the base you will a need to cut a piece of card 24 x 34 cm. Print out the stage templates (T4 and T5), align and stick on to the stronger card. Score and fold 5cm in from both of the shorter sides (See Fig. 5 & 6).
The side panels require 2 pieces of strong card cut to 26 x 24 cm. Create the tabs as per Fig. 7 & 8
Glue both side panels to the base, using the tabs.
For the back of the theatre you will need a piece of coloured card (approx 150 gsm), cut to 21 x 30 cm.
Create tabs 3cm in on each side (See Fig. 9), score and fold (Fig. 10).
Stick the back panel to the side and base panels using these tabs.
Stick the front of the theatre (T1 & T2) to the rest of the structure using the tabs on the side panels (See Fig. 8).
Take the side panel holders you made earlier (T3) and stick them to the sides of the theatre using the two tabs provided (See Fig. 4).
Now the fun part, making your characters, scenery and backgrounds. You will need to print out the templates T6, T7, T8 and stick them onto card (approx 150 gsm).
Glue the background scene (T7) onto a piece of card, this should now be ready to use. Try it out; simply slide it into the slots in the scene holders and see how it looks.
Cut out the four side panel scenes or 'wings' (T6) and stick each one onto a long piece of card (A4 height), increasing the width of the card each time to create depth. For example the first one should be 2 cms wider than the scene, the next 4cm, 6cm and so on. The varying widths allow different items to be seen at the same time, some in the background and some in the foreground.
Remember you will want wings for both the left and right sides of the stage; you will need to stick the scenes onto the card with this in mind.
Stick the characters (T8) onto card and cut out. Cut a long piece of card, again, about the length of an A4 piece of card and 0.5cm wide and glue to the back of your characters. This is how you will move your characters around the stage from above.
Now your theatre is ready, it is time to put on a play!
National Archives: Victorian Britain
History in Focus: The Victorian Era
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victorian Web
British Library: Online Exhibition: Victorian Britain
Pollock's Toy Museum