Curried Prawns Illusion

Curried Prawns

Curried Prawns was a play in which too many curried prawns eaten by one of the party at lunch time resulted in him having dyspeptic hallucinations and it was used an opportunity to show Professor Peppers ghost like illusions.

Metempsychosis depended for its effect on a carefully constructed chamber within the stage area, which could be diagonally bisected by a large silvered mirror. As the mirror slid into place, objects behind it would be concealed from view. To disguise the leading edge of the mirror, vertical strips were carefully etched away from the mirrored surface. A pile of oranges were turned into jars of marmalade (gratuitously distributed to children in the audience), a man turned into a woman and perhaps most bizarrely, a pile of sausages transformed into Pepper’s own white poodle, which bounded down the stage to greet him. The variations were ingenious and comical, but the effect must still have been that of a scientific demonstration.

Of greater interest here was a comic sketch written by F.C.Burnand, regular contributor to Punch, with the curious title Curried Prawns, a dyspeptic illusion. This utilised a new improved form of the Metempsychosis, its narrative depicting ‘a series of extraordinary hallucinations which seized the imagination of an amateur Faust, after a lunch off the truly epicurean dish named in the title.

‘The marvellous manner in which the figures dissolve from view affords abundant food for reflection, but, judging from past experiences, there seems little hope of unravelling the mystery’
The Era August 10th 1879.