History of Puppetry in Britain
In Britain we have evidence of puppet performance dating dating back over 600 years. Nobody knows when the first puppet shows were performed in Britain although the Romans probably had puppets, since they were known in Italy. Minstrels in France performed puppet shows as early as the 13th century, and would have entertained with them when they came to England.
That's the Way to Do it! A History of Punch and Judy
A puppet play that would have featured a version of Punch was first recorded in England in May 1662, by the diarist Samuel Pepys. He noted seeing it in Covent Garden, performed by the Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde from Bologna, otherwise known as Signor Bologna
In the 19th century, English marionette (string puppet) troupes were world-famous and popular with adults and children alike. Troupes toured the country in the UK and abroad, setting up temporary theatres seating 200-700 people at fairs or on village greens, and playing in established music halls and theatres.
Video: Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn
A scene from this Victorian marionette melodrama telling the grim true-life tale of Maria Marten, murdered in the Red Barn by her lover, William Corder. Excerpt from a recording in the Theatre and Performance collections.The V&A's set of 35 Tiller-Clowes figures is the largest to survive from a 19th-century touring marionette theatre in Britain.
Theatre & Performance
The Theatre and Performance collection was founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow and has provided a home for many other significant objects and archives. All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK.
Among the Theatre and Performance collections there are over 3,500 stage costumes and accessories - ranging from complete outfits to individual headdresses. All are a tribute to the creativity and skills of designers and costume makers from the mid 18th century to today, in every kind of live performance - drama, opera, dance, musicals, pantomime, rock and pop, music hall, cabaret, circus.