A shift in the Force has been palpable in recent months, as the world waited for the release of the latest ‘Star Wars’ film. Shops upped the price of toys (even toys from the dreadful prequels) and supermarkets increased their ranges of clothing – in adult sizes. They knew, as does Canterbury’s excellent museum, The Beaney, that it’s the grown ups driving the excitement and the market even more than the kids.
Which is why its latest exhibition, ‘May The Toys Be With You’, is such a draw. Forget the kids, this is a nostalgia trip for parents, far too many of whom will still be bitter at waving goodbye to all that Kenner and Palitoy goodness they owned in the early 80s, long lost to charity shops and those ‘other children who need to play with the toys you’ve outgrown now’.
They’re all here. Everything you probably gave away. The imposing AT-ATs, nippy X-Wings and TIE Fighters, the ropey cardboard Death Star, the magnificent Millennium Falcon (of course), and all the figures, plastic capes still refusing to flow like royal robes; crimped lightsabers and antennae, no doubt bent slightly out of shape on the first day of play.
It’s like going back to the days of Gamleys, but now you’re only allowed to dribble longingly as you look through the glass. The sweet frustration! You can still spend your pocket money, but only afterwards in the gift shop.
Still, spare a thought for Polish or Turkish children in the 80s, having to suffer a lack of ‘Star Wars’ toy licensing which led to some laughably poor quality knock offs, also on display here. Poor nations. Their toys were on a par with the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’.
There is no poor quality when it comes to the cinema quad posters from episodes four, five and six which cover the walls. From the iconic Hildebrandt and Tom Jung designs, through Tom Beauvais and Tom Chantrell’s work, some international posters and a lovely early effort for the not quite appellated ‘Revenge Of The Jedi’, these are captivating. Ditch the kids in the colouring and dress up corner to properly take them in uninterrupted.
Photos with the life-size protagonist cardboard cut outs in the foyer are optional. Just – don’t lick Carrie Fisher in her bikini. No do, just do not. There is no try.
May The Toys Be With You is on at The Beaney, Canterbury until Sunday 6 March, with ‘Star Wars’ mask making on Tuesday 16 February and puppet and badge making on 13 and 20 February.