Carved wooden marionette in the form of a white-faced drunken stilt-walking clown, a speciality act. He is wearing a blue jacket and knickerbocker suit (possibly silk) trimmed with white silk strips of braid, the knickerbockers ruched. The jacket has metal buttons centre front and back, and on the cuffs, which are trimmed with cream lace. He has dark green knitted stockings, and carved shoes, painted black. His feet and the sides of his calves are attached to white stilts, which are padded on the ends to reduce slippage. He holds a beer bottle in his right hand. There are small pads on the bottom of the stilts to stop slippage.
He has hair carved into two points at the sides and one at the back; a bald pate, and a white painted face and head, decorated with clown's stylised make-up of a large red diamond on each cheek. He has an articulated mouth, and his eyes have tops of hat pins for pupils, and arched painted black eyebrows.
There is a hole through the head for a string, which is not connected, and a staple in the upper lip for control of the bottle string. There is a string to the backside for bowing. There is no padding in the central section of the body, and very light padding in the rest of the body, and his legs are attached to the body section by a piece of rexine, tacked front and back, under which are remnants of an older cloth joint.
He is worked by two doweling control bars, possibly replacements for the originals. Bar one controls the knees for walking. Bar two has seven notches (three without strings attached); the head is controlled by two strings (from the notches third left and right); there is a bowing string (to waist) from the centre; a pull through bottle string, left of centre (through screw eye), and the left hand is controlled from the extreme left notch.
This marionette appeared in Tricks with Strings, a performance on the 29th April 2018 as part of the V&A Performance Festival. The puppeteers included Ronnie Le Drew, Susan Dacre, Keith Frederick, Siân Kidd, and Eti Meacock. The performance was directed by Rachel Warr.
This is one of 35 marionettes known as of the Tiller-Clowes troupe, one of the last remaining Victorian marionette troupes in England. Marionette shows were a popular form of entertainment for adults in the 19th century. Many troupes were family concerns which travelled round the country long before the advent of film or television, presenting shortened versions of London's latest popular entertainment including melodramas, dramas, pantomimes, minstrel shows and music hall. In the 18th and early 19th centuries their theatres were relatively makeshift, but after about 1860 many became considerably elaborate, with walls constructed from wooden shutters, seating made from tiered planks of wood, and canvas roofs.
The figures were carved, painted, dressed and performed by members of the company. This is one of two white-faced clowns with articulated mouths who performed a comical drunken stilt-walking speciality act. The clown's feet and calves are attached to his stilts; he has a beer bottle in his right hand, and his left hand is carved closed. The act was very popular in the marionette music hall, and figures like this featured in several different companies.
Carved wooden marionette of a white-faced stilt-walking drunken clown from the Tiller troupe, a speciality comedy act. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890.