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Cabaret Mechanical Theatre

Not a theatre or a cabaret, although it's certainly a form of entertainment. The most important collection of contemporary automata in England today, [sharing] an eccentricity [and] a wry sense of humour.

In the lower courts of the fashionably refurbished Covent Garden Market, surrounded by wine-bars and designer sock shops, the lucky visitor will find a collection of modern automata: things that move by themselves. The craftsmanship these pieces display is breathtaking; the sense of humour they embody is wry and never too obvious. There are some on display outside to whet your appetite – slip a coin in the slot and watch them go through their paces. If you're hooked, you can buy a ticket that admits you to a gallery with another 64 automata: and no more coin-slots.

Special thanks to Mark Skipper for telling me about this museum, which I had vaguely heard mentioned during Tim Hunkin's fascinating "The Secret Life of Everyday Things" series but didn't know where to find. I must visit it again some winter afternoon, so to come out and enjoy the gas-lamps in the streets around the market. While this would be a source of some pleasure to me, I promise not to sing "Oh, wouldn't it be luvverly" at the mere thought.

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