Toy Theatres pic1 – Clare Calder-Marshall

The Tiny World of Toy Theatre

The top floor of Pickford’s House has been transformed into a magical world of toy theatre.
About the collection

Discover the magical world of toy theatres in this newly expanded display on the top floor of Pickford’s House. The exhibition showcases the best of Derby Museums’ world-class toy theatre collection, which is one of the largest in the country. It features toy and model theatres from The Frank Bradley Collection, Anthony Denning and practising toy theatre makers Joseph Hope Williams, Trevor Griffin and Alison Englefield.

The toy theatre originates from around 1800, when print sellers marketed prints of famous actors and actresses of the day. Their trade soon expanded to allow theatre enthusiasts and children to build miniature model theatres and stage plays in their own homes.

What can I see?

Enchanting scenes from Sleeping Beauty, Treasure Island, Little Red Riding Hood and Aladdin are amongst the intricate theatres on display from Derby Museums’ collection. A revolving Dracula theatre, based on Edward Gorey’s sets for the 1977 Broadway production takes pride of place. Visitors can also see animated toy theatre excerpts from The Phantom of The Opera, The Miller and His Men and Aladdin.

What can I do?

Step into a set designed by artist Emma Lance to act out your own performance. Try out theatre sound effects with the thunder run and wind machine, and have a go at designing, colouring and performing your own plays with the tiny characters and scenes. Listen to The Umbrella Print Seller, narrated by actress Anna Calder-Marshall from an original interview circa 1850 conducted by Henry Mayhew.

What can I learn?

Explore the links to Derby’s theatres from the Georgian era to the present, including the world premiere of the stage play of Dracula in 1924. Discover the origins of the toy theatre movement and learn how toy theatres were made with films showing artists and tinsellers at work. Learn about vintage back-stage machinery such as trap doors shown in the accurate model of the Bristol Old Vic

Image © Clare Calder-Marshall