A gift for summer holidays, this joyful interactive exhibition of comical, beautifully made automata will give fun and knowledge to old and young.
Long ago and far away, in Cornwall in 1979, Sue Jackson opened a craft shop, Cabaret. It became the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. When Paul Spooner arrived with his movable wooden toys the organisation moved to Covent Garden, selling handmade automata, kits, cut-outs and videos on www.cabaret.co.uk The aim of this witty combination of art and science at the Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, is to inspire visitors to “help them understand the basic mechanisms involved . . . and have a go at making automata with our designing automata kit”.
The figures are each busy with a zany activity, enhanced by a funny title and underpinned by an interactive board allowing you to play and understand the relevant mechanical principle involved. Take the Sheep Shearing Man by Ron Fuller: based on the principle of levers, a luckless man rises and falls, on every tenth turn of the handle the vindictive sheep appears to chop off his head with shears.
Paul Spooner and Matt Smith devised The Barecats: as the little cat points, the big cat looks up, so who is driving whom? Enjoy the man wearing striped trunks and white cap learning How to Swim (below) — not in a pool but on a high stool.
For the contemporary The Birth of Fast Food Keith Newstead uses a crank slider to move the gallant steed while linkages of strings and wires move levers to make the wings and legs go up and down.
Drives, pulleys, ratchets, levers make these machines work and underpin our lives in so many ways.
Until September 9, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm.