So who pulls the pints in paradise? In The Oxfordshire Museum, the landlady smokes, drinks, waves and winks. Where are the health and safety officers to fine the law breakers at Adam and Eve’s bar?
Welcome to a virtual world but not of the Nintendo type; this is the version, circa 1980, before computers took over our lives.
The bar is hidden away at the back of the museum rather as risqué magazines are put on the top shelves in newsagents. The museum even promotes it as ‘adult content – not suitable for children’.
There are indeed some hints of fertility and naked flesh but don’t take the age ban too seriously for The Ride of Life is a room-sized automata show. It feels rather like a living Beryl Cook painting and was designed by the artist Roy Fuller as a satire on the British way of life.
The artist says: “The Ride of Life was a large-scale project commission in 1980s by the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield. It was to become a huge automated theme park but sadly this is the only remaining scene in existence.”
Adam and Eve’s public bar has been brought to Woodstock by CABARET Mechanical Theatre, so the whole scene throbs with life. I won’t spoil your enjoyment by describing it in detail – see for yourself if you are in Woodstock. First explore the historical and contemporary photographs “in the footsteps of Henry Taunt”, continue through, past the selection of oil paintings, and be surprised.
Anthony Horowitz is pretty good at inventing scenes. The creator of Alex Rider, the 14-year-old MI6 spy and Foyle’s War, stumbled on CABARET Mechanical Theatre in the basement at Covent Garden. He says: “The world of automata has been completely reinvented by a mother and daughter team – Sue Jackson and Sarah Alexander. I can explain my love of these wonderful toys. We live in a world where we are surrounded by machines whose perfection is way beyond our understanding. I like the fact that automata do not conceal their inner workings but actually flaunt them. The mechanism is as entertaining as the end result.” This bizarre show is on until March 28 in the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. It is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am- 5pm and Sunday 2-5pm. Admission is free.