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Supreme Cabaret Puppet Theatre

PostPosted: 14 May 2009, 11:13
by Chris
Reader Doug Price cannot work out how to post a message on this board and has asked me to post his request. He is interested in the Cabaret Puppet Theatre marketed by The Supreme Magic Company many years ago.

He asks if anyone has diagrams of this fit-up. As far as I recall this was only sold as a fit-up and not as a set of plans. However there may have been illustrations in the instructions which came with the frame, or maybe some purchaser would be willing to describe the fit-up to Doug.

You can email him <a href="">HERE</a> if you can offer him any help.

PostPosted: 14 May 2009, 12:49
by James
Isn't this pretty much the same as the Eric Sharp frame, but without a proscenium opening?

PostPosted: 14 May 2009, 13:52
by Chris
It may have been. I thought so at one time. But Edwin in "Hello Mr Punch" and appears unaware of the folding panel principle when he discusses booth types. Yet he mentions the Cabaret Puppet Theatre as being for sale and as it being a copy of his drawing room fit-up which had no pros and an inner facing playboard. It reads as though this might be a cut-down lazy tongs booth.

However the designs for the original panel booth designed by Tozer had certainly been published by then so Edwin could have seen this. Or it could have been based on the already published Entrikin type booth, or been simply a three fold screen type.

The only illustration I have seen is one on the original gestetner-duplicated advert and it in no way indicates the construction. I did see the booth when I visited Edwin, but it was draped, and I never examined it. There were too many counter attractions at the time. But if my memory is correct it certainly wasn't fabric covered panels as in the Eric Sharp style - it was a loose draped cover with press-studs.

But I'm sure someone must have bought one and can give us the real gen.

PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 15:19
by Tony James
I emailed Doug as requested. I haven't seen one either beyond the draped illustration in one of Edwin's catalogues. However, when I was desperately hunting a frame in February 1973 I tried Edwin for one of these and quickly realised he and Oscar and Bob Wade were all using the same maker for all their frames and he was long term sick.

So I asked Edwin if the CPT was a cut down topless lazy tongs and he said it was, I didn't go further because he then offered me his old beach frame which was 'wickedly heavy' but good. As I was flying out I needed something lighter so I declined.

Unless Doug wants to build a facsimile frame then he'll be close enough if he plans a cut-down lazy tongs to suit. Front and both sides on a level. Playboard facing inboard if he chooses. No showfront or anything. Just an open top four-sided tube.

At the back an up-stand to provide the background. If the playboard is at 1 inch above head height it should work. The up-stand might be 12 to 18 inches high to suit.

The cover in those days would have been carpet snap fastened to the frame. It might well have been open backed as people worked on stages far more than they do today. On the other hand it could be a crossover. In any event it was almost certainly a single wrap around rounding. The up-stand would have been a pelmet style, hanging down inside at the back.

The illustration suggested a loose fabric, draped with a fullness like curtains rather than a tight flat fit. But equally, it could be in swags like Austrian blinds.

Strangely I have heard people say that someone knows someone whose cousin twice removed bought one but I've never seen one at all, anywhere. Not even at an auction.

The curious thing is that Edwin was selling these from earlyish days and yet never to my knowledge advertised Punch Frames. If he sold them he never mentioned them. Of course it could have been a bit like his approach to Wal Kent figures which we know he supplied but didn't make any noise about it. Maybe that was a deal struck with Wal who perhaps wanted to make at his pace and not Edwin's.

Puppet makers who followed soon found themselves under pressure. I know Tony Green found it hard to keep up and I recall Bryan Clarke saying when Edwin first ordered the quantity was 350!

I knew some in the 70s who regularly broke Punch noses and scrapped the figure, buying a replacement. They were considered so cheap. These were the Joe Parsonage figures

But I have never worked out why Edwin didn't appear to sell Punch frames but did sell the CPT. It could be that he saw a Punch frame as something for ever whereas puppets would be added to and replaced.

PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 18:05
by Tony James
I've found it! It is just over half way through Part 2 of Catalogue No 4 from the 1960s.

The ad reckons you can set it in three minutes and packs to a bundle 4 feet long and 24 inches round.

When up measures 6 feet 6 inches high x 38 inches across the front and 30 inches deep.

It says the playboard is set at 5 feet 10 inches but is adjustable. presumably that means it can be set lower. Can't imagine how it could be set higher.

This is interesting. The height of 6 feet 6 inches must refer to the height to the top of the up-stand. But looking at the drawing, the up-stand appears to be at least 2 feet higher than the playboard ie nearly half the hight of the front from floor to playboard which the ad states is 5 feet 10 inches.

So something does not add up. According to these dimensions the up-stand is only 8 inches and the drawing makes it much higher than that.

I was wrong about the cover.There's a stripe illustrated on the front and a diamond pattern on the side and it is tight to the frame. However, the up-stand is draped loose and pleated like curtains so that's what I was remembering.

And there is a swag drape to the front top edge where the playboard is positioned looking inwards. I must have remembered something of that too though not the precise detail.

Here we go again: made entirely in wood with metal fixing clips....... cover snaps onto the frame. No hooks etc used.

Weight without cover but with puppet bar just over 13 lbs.

Price for frame only with snaps £12.12.0 d which of course was twelve guineas.

The cover added another £5.5.0 d. All up seventeen guineas.

There. Hope that helps. Sorry. No scanner.

PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 21:29
by Chris
In that case Tony, then it is definitely a cut-down version of the lazy tongs. The drawing, rather than the stated sizes, is probably inaccurate since those sizes work perfectly.

Apropos standard fit-ups. Yes, Edwin did sell these, although how many I don't know. You are correct that he didn't advertise them. I do recall a photograph from a customer which appeared in Trixigram. It showed a fit-up ins somebody's back garden and was quoting a letter from this person (I rather think it was a vicar!) saying how pleased they were with the fit-up and figures which Supreme had supplied.

But I don't think Edwin would advertise anything he couldn't keep in stock - and full fit-ups would possibly be too costly, bulky and bitty to be viable. But perhaps on request Edwin would arrange to supply in order to sell his figures.

PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 12:30
by Chris
<blockquote>Taking those measurements Tony found on the advert, coupled with what Edwin himself describes, I think that I have a pretty good idea of the design. If Doug or anyone else fancies building such a frame they should first aquire a copy of "Hello Mr Punch" by Edwin, published by Supreme Magic. (Try Adrian Harris and refer to page 14. The bottom part of your fit-up is probably identical to this except that front back and sides are shown as 37.5 inches while you will need to reduce the sides to 30 inches. It should be pointed out that Edwin's measurements for the folding struts are slightly (and annoyingly) inaccurate. So you need a get a copy of either "The Frame File" or "The Extended Frame File" by John Alexander, both of which give the Bob Sacco invaluable formula for working out these proportions for any size of frame. Contact John Alexander via his website

The top section of the fit-up will be similar to that illustrated on Page 16 of "Hello Mr Punch" except the back struts will be 30.5 inches rather than 36.5 inches. The front struts will be 22.5 inches and of course will not have the hardboard facings.

You will need to add struts from front to back, and an inward facing playboard.

Although the Cabaret Puppet Theatre had a higher back than front, thus forming a backcloth (which Tony refers to as an upstand?) this is totally pointless. You may as well make back and front the same height, and this will make construction that much easier.

The reason I say this is because any backcloth set 30 inches behind the playboard (as this is) will not be seen by a child seated on the floor unless that child were at least 10 feet back from the booth. And since this booth is for domestic use the children will be nearer. A child sitting on the floor 6 feet in front of the booth could only see that part of a backcloth which was over 7 foot high. Pointless.

Of course these sight-line considerations draw attention to the merits of the hands-in-front designs for fit-ups especially in the domestic and close quarter performing situation.</blockquote>

PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 18:44
by Tony James
I suspect the backcloth or drape as it was illustrated might have worked better in a cabaret situation where the audience was seated higher on chairs and further back.

Would the performer have been sat down?

5 foot 10 inches to the playboard is a bit low for hands above unless the performer was sat.

PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 20:09
by Chris
He'd be a very big bloke to work sitting down behind 5ft 10ins - a man of 7ft 4ins perhaps.

5ft 10in (or less) playboard would be fine for most people in those days. It would cover people up to 6ft for a seated audience when the site lines block at least two inches. Men of 6ft or more were a definite rarity in the 40/50/60s. I am 5-11 and was always one of the tallest in my classes throughout school. Nowadays I am dwarfed by 12 year olds.

The old rule of adding an inch to your height to get the playboard height was to accommodate a standing audience who, if tall, look slightly down on the puppets and thus might see your bald patch. Of course outdoor Punch does often have a standing audience and so the rule holds good. But the Cabaret Puppet Theatre was not, by definition, designed for an outdoor or a standing audience.

PostPosted: 19 May 2009, 00:16
by David Wilde
Bob Wade using the same maker for his booths.........

Bob Wade made his own and they were of a unique style, again adopting lazy tong style but with his own twist!!

He only made a handful, and certainly did not really advertise too much that he did make them!

PostPosted: 19 May 2009, 12:50
by Tony James
Well, all I can tell you is what happened in March 1973. Oscar who I had known for some time couldn't supply a frame as his maker was ill. Oscar Suggested Bob Wade. I had seen the name in The Stage but didn't know him.

Bob said his maker was ill and it appeared he and Oscar used the same person. I have a feeling the maker was in Berkshire. Maybe it was something Bob said. Curiously Bob suggested I contact Stanley Woods who lived quite close to me as Bob understood Stanley had a spare he wanted to sell.

Stanley at first denied this but then Stanley Woods was a rather individual character. I moved on to Edwin who gave me the same 'maker ill' story and offered his old beach frame. Actually by then I was looking for a CPT as I thought it would be simpler and lighter to travel and would be sufficient to meet the contract. It was only one show each week whereas the children's shows were 12 different per fortnight and the cabarets 4 different per fortnight. You can see where the emphasis had to be.

I ended up making a small open top frame not too dissimilar to the CPT and I drafted in friends and relatives to help. With a cover it cost me £8.

Two days before I flew out Stanley rang me and offered me his spare frame for £100. Remember, this was 1973 and by today's values that was around £1,150.

When I declined and thanked him most graciously and told him I had one which only cost me £8 he put the phone down and didn't speak to me again for years!