In The Merry Wives of Windsor' Sir John Falstaff is persuaded to disguise himself as Herne the Hunter, for a midnight assignation at Herne's Oak, in Windsor Great Park.
The original Herne the Hunter was the favourite gamekeeper of Richard II, but as ghostly Leader of the Wild Hunt he had the head and horns of a stag.
This is how Shakespeare had Mistress Page introduce the hoax:
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv'd, and did deliver to our age,
This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.
I'll come back to Herne another day, but my immediate interest lay in making a head, after the one I saw in a shop turned out to be impossible to adapt - which made me feel better about not being able to afford it anyway! It strikes me as quite insane that toy shops stock stylish (really, not bad at all) gimmickry (a karaoke deer head?!) at 899 AED. How much?
Anyway, I'll record my method here in case I, or anyone else, should want to do something similar in future. (I can't take the real thing with me when we move!)
The head has to be big, stable, and as light as possible, because the actor who will wear it has to move quite vigorously in it, and even lie down.
I started with some pictures, an idea involving chicken wire, coiled wire, Modrock (a roll of gauze impregnated with plaster of paris), and a collection of potential raw materials.
Also conventional and long-nosed pliers, tin snips or wire cutters. The long-nose pliers are useful for widening holes made with the carpet needle, while the conventional pliers give you enough grip to pull the needle through plastic.
Some defunct headphones provided a useful base, and the empty plastic bottles were rigid, thin enough to pierce with a carpet needle (so I could thread wire and string through), and light. They smelt good too!
Once the basic shape was assembled and wired, I went out looking for tree trimmings. I found two that could be trimmed back to a manageable weight and length, and tied them on with string.
This is Modrock, cut to length, plus water to dip it in.
Squeeze out the excess water, then lay/wrap the strip on the head base, and smooth in place.
Put out to dry! This was the night before Hallowe'en.
At this point my deer head looked more like a bicycle saddle, so I used layers and rolls of cut bubblewrap to bulk it up, and then added another layer of Modrock. I left the underside unplastered because it really does set like rock, which is not the ideal material for a headdress!
I also added ribbons of bubblewrap to broaden the antlers, plus Modrock, and a coat of paint - mixing odds and ends of coloured emulsion to get a good brown. In the end, the earphones didn't work because, while they are handy anchors for a chinstrap, the balance was wrong, plus they muffled the actor's hearing!
I gave the head a coat of brown paint, but left it to Habibi to turn the base into a recogniseable deer head. Pretty fab, hm? Of course, it took me a while to realise to realise that because of the way I'd aligned the antlers, there's nowhere too put the ears.........
All I have to do now is make it comfortable and stable for the actor, and find some brown fur fabric for a cloak. I've found black, leopard, tiger, zebra and white, but no plain tan or beige. If anyone can direct me to a shop I'd be very grateful!
Q. What do you call a deer with no eyes?
A. No idea!