Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Designer of the Small

Earlier this week I heard from a gentleman named Tony Banfield. Some of you may be familiar with Tony's work, on the large or the small stage. I was thrilled to hear from him, and deeply impressed at his meticulously detailed miniature theatres he creates. Tony had this to say...
Dear Trish,

Louise Heard from Pollocks, Covent Garden, London suggested I contact you re the Victoria Model theatre which might be of interest to your readers. I have one on show at Pollocks and I've made 21 versions so far for clients in the UK, USA, Norway, Switzerland and Portugal.

The model is based on London's Old Vic Theatre as it would have appeared in 1871 and very much how it looks now having been restored in 1982.

My first experience of theatre was aged five or so. I recall being taken to an immense building, climbing hundreds of stairs and emerging into a fantastical palace of red plush and gilt. I was hooked - a victim of the “red and gold disease”. Way below an orchestra was tuning and footlights had set the gorgeous velvet curtain aglow. When Peter Pan flew through the air it was no surprise. In such a place anything was possible.

Next day I made a theatre out of an old shoe box. In time this was replaced by a hand-me-down Pollock’s cardboard theatre where I discovered the delights of “penny plain, tuppence coloured”. Eventually I had built a rickety theatre with fly-tower, revolving stage and fan shaped auditorium. Like so many real theatres of the day I converted mine into a cinema and then I grew up....but not quite.

Years later I had become a set and costume designer and in between design jobs decided to use my set design model making skills to make the model theatre I had always dreamed of as a child. I soon found I need new skills and entered into the astonishing world of the miniaturist model maker. In nine months I had the prototype and soon found that other kindred spirits wanted it too. Since then I have made 21 versions for clients in the UK, Europe and USA. Each model is signed and dated.

Congratulations on a fascinating website. What a find !

All the best
Tony Banfield
Tony included the following details about this particular theatre he makes (he makes others):
This is a fully working scale model based on London's famous Old Vic Theatre as it would have appeared in 1871 and very similar to the present day restorations. The decorative auditorium is housed in one of three cabinet designs. The simple version has an open front and stage area with a framework grid to support scenery. The intermediate version is the same but has a semi enclosed stage with fly tower and flying system with around 18 bars from which to hang scenery and perform magical scene changes. The full cabinet version is enclosed like a dolls house with an exterior decorated with an architectural rendering of the 1871 theatre. Optional extras include a revolving stage, working stage trap, special front curtain based on that at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a miniature lighting rig with around 150 lamps and a lap-top control board with up to 30 dimmers. This operates house lights, footlights and overhead battens in three colours and sets of spotlights. Each model is signed and dated and there are 21 versions so far in the UK, USA & Europe.
And I thought my lighting setup was complex!