|EXCERPT FROM BILL BRYSON'S 'DOWNUNDER'
' ..the Australians suffered three killed on the night, and a fourth during the hunt afterwards.
All this is commemorated in photographs and other displays at Cowra's visitor centre, which in itself is excellent, but in a room at the back was a small audio-visual theatre that was one of the most enchanting things I believe I have ever seen - certainly ever seen in a small country town in the middle of nowhere.
Behind glass on a kind of small stage were objects saved from the POW camp: some books and diaries, a couple of framed photographs, a baseball bat and glove, a medicine bottle, a Japanese board game. As I entered, the light automatically dimmed in the room. A little introductory music played and then - this was the enchanting part - a young woman about six inches high stepped out of one of the framed photographs and began moving around among the objects and talking about Cowra in the 1940s and the prison breakout. My mouth fell open. She didn't just move about but interacted with the objects - stepped around books, idly leaned on a shell casing - as she went through her presentation. As you can imagine, I got up and had a closer look and I can tell you that no matter how close you got to the glass (and I had my head pressed up against it the way children do when they wish to be amusing) you couldn't see the artifice. She was perfectly formed, full colour, charmingly articulate, rather dishy three-dimensional person right in front of me and only six inches high. It was the most captivating thing I had seen in years. It was obvious that it was a film projected in some way from beneath, but there wasn't a stutter, a bump, no scratchy lines or wriggly hairs. It was as real as an image can get. She was a perfect little hologram. The narrative, it is worth noting, was sympathetic and informative - a model of its type. I watched it three times and couldn't have been more impressed.
'Good eh?' beamed the lady at the reception desk, seeing the amazed look on my face when I emerged.
Anticipating my questions, she passed me a laminated card that explained how it was all done. The display was created by a company in Sydney, employing an optical trick that has been around for well over a century. It was all to do with projecting an image onto a glass plate artfully positioned in such a way as to become invisible to the spectator. Beyond that the only real trick was taking fastidious care that the actress hit her marks exactly. It must have taken months. It was simply brilliant.
And I will say this. When they can figure a way to get the little person to lap dance, they will make a fortune.