Props help scenes become more realistic and assist in guiding the viewers’ imagination. Some may argue that props and the design behind them are often underappreciated. Props in the theatre play a crucial role in provoking viewer’s emotions and heightening performance. They also have the power to make us engrossed in stories that were centuries well before our time. They not only help the viewer identify the character that is being displayed but also help the actor get into character – much like how wearing a suit may help a professional get into a business mindset.
Theatre props are anything movable or portable on a stage which is distinct from the actors, costumes and scenery. The use of props in British theatre has come a long way since they were first introduced in the 13th century. In an age where everything is digital, there is something special about humans only using themselves and props to tell a story. It is this element that has helped theatrical productions continue to play a significant role in British culture. They often become a part of a character and therefore develop into a vital association with that particular story. These props can often become highly valued collectables.
Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet first made his film debut in 1956 and later went on to appear in The Twilight Zone and The Addams Family. The robot became the most expensive prop ever sold at auction when it reached $5.375m. This was closely followed by the Aston Martin that appeared in the James Bond film Goldfinger and Thunderball which was sold for $4.6m. Props are much more than just an object to assist the eye. We put meaning into objects and use them symbolise and communicate stories and more.
Buying stage props
When it comes to categorising collectables, it all depends on your goals, budget and ultimate reason for becoming a collector. There are two main ways of categorising collectables:
Historically (by era)
You may be interested in collecting Victorian, Georgian, or Depression Era stage artefacts. Given their age, which predates mass production, these will come at a steep price.
Functionally (by purpose)
Stage sets widely vary in purpose, which makes it entirely safe to say that they can include any regular household item. Other day-to-day items used on-stage include specialised professional inventory as well as dedicated theatrical items like costumes, make-up tools, stage weapons, lighting, etc.
The History of Prop-Art in the Theatre
Courtesy of Spur Creative, we have a helpful infographic to give us a few helpful facts and figures about how important the role of props are in theatre productions and beyond!
The Founder of How To Do Theatre, Tom is heavily involved in all aspects of this online theatre magazine and wants to help create a fantastic resource for everyone who may need it. He is also a graduate of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Young Writers course so when not writing for this website he is off scribbling plays of his own.