Adrian Brooks on his unusual and eclectic show of miniature venues

A series of 24 wall-mounted theatres, inspired and assembled in countries as diverse as Brazil, Australia, Tanzania and Canada, have found a temporary resting place in Summertown.

These intricate models, created by Oxfordshire artist Adrian Brooks with paint, papier-mâché, puppets and lighting, draw the viewer into a world of pleasure and discovery.

Inspired by a lifetime’s involvement in the theatre, he says: “I love the magic that theatres weaves: the curtain opens, the lights go down and we’re drawn into another world, a world where beautiful and sometimes bizarre stories unfold.

“Of course my theatres are different. They’re small, wall mounted and painted objects, viewed from three or even four sides.

“They require the viewer, usually one person at a time, to explore the images on the outside of the theatre, even to walk around it and then they are invited to open the doors and peep inside, to discover images or puppets, listen to sounds and read text.

“ I hope the theatres create their own magic,” he says.

Adrian Brooks was born in London, where he studied art and later theology.

After 11 years in the ministry, he taught art in secondary schools in Oxfordshire, and later became the arts education officer for Oxford University Museums, planning the education programmes at the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Museum, Museum of the History of Science, and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

“I felt like a child loose in a sweet shop, I couldn’t get enough. All the themes in my artwork now surrounded me every day. I was in my dream job,” he says.

Adrian’s time working for the museums has inspired several of the Travel Theatres on display.

“Some of the theatres chronicle the lives of great people associated with Oxford,” he says.

“They include Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, and the anthropologist Baldwin Spencer. He travelled from the Pitt Rivers to be one of the first photographers of the aboriginal people in central Australia. I actually constructed the theatre about his life from an old cabinet from the Pitt Rivers, so there is a kind of poetry in that I feel.”

It’s the first time all of Adrian’s work has been brought together in one exhibition.

One of the theatres is on loan from The Story Museum, and celebrates Oxford writer Philip Pullman’s famous novel, Northern Lights.

“I produced it for a wonderful exhibition called Animal – A Safari Through Stories,” he says.

“In contrast to other works in the exhibition, it’s a larger floor standing structure, akin to a doll’s house. It is made for children really, but looking at it with the other work I realise in fact all the theatres have a child-like quality, so I hope all ages can enjoy them.”

Other theatres takes the viewer further afield, inspired by Adrian’s love for travel and exploration.

“I had the privilege and opportunity to travel in North and South America, Australia, Asia, Africa and particularly India which I return to again and again.

“I guess you’d really call these theatres Traveller’s Tales, hence the title Travel Theatres.”

  • Adrian Brooks’ Travel Theatres
  • The North Wall
  • March 28 – April 15