Actually you can use this puppet theatre for any Bible passage at
all. It all depends on what the puppets want to say. At St James Muswell Hill
our two puppets - Josh and Sarah - were the children of Israel, and they helped
with our all age worship series on Exodus.
We bought our puppets from
One Way UK, a company
that is run by Christians and helps churches to spread the gospel through the
use of puppets.
They have a huge range of human, animal and even flower
puppets, of various sizes. Their web site has puppet scripts and music and all
sorts of puppeting accessories. And they run courses all over the UK to teach
you how to be a good puppeteer.
If you can't get to a course there are
some tutorials on YouTube - search for 'One Way UK foundations of puppetry'.
You can, if you wish, be really ambitious. For example, YouTube has
videos of Bethlehem Rhapsody - the story of the birth of Jesus told
using puppets and a version of the old song by Queen.
One Way UK will sell you a stage set and curtains to go with it.
The curtains are black and very good at blocking the light - so you won't see
shadows of the puppeteers. And the frame is made of metal tubes and packs down
neatly into a bag that you can store away when you're not using it.
that kind of quality comes at a price and, really, would you want to buy a
ready-made theatre when you could spend ages making one of your own? Of course
First of all you need to pay a visit to
PO Joyce's timber
yard in Finchley. This is a marvellous place, run by really helpful men in long
brown coats and with pencils behind their ears. They take your order in the
yard, help you put the wood in your car and give you a bit of paper to take
into the shop. There a man writes out a receipt by hand and stamps it 'paid'
using a rubber stamp.
If you don't live near Finchley you need to find a
place like PO Joyce in your town. Or, I suppose, you could move to Finchley,
but that might be a bit extreme.
Anyway, this is what you need:
- One piece of MDF 2440 x 1220. Or four pieces 1220 x 610, which
will fit more easily into your car. I used 6mm thick MDF which gave a good
depth of relief in the details, but it did make the proscenium arch quite
heavy. 3mm would have been OK.
- 15 bits of wood 44 x 20 x 2440mm long cut up as follows:
- 2440mm long x 9
- 1220mm long x 6
- 915mm long x 2
- 610mm long x 9
Things from Ikea
Ikea sell extraordinarily cheap curtains. They also have piles of
little pencils which are just the right length for putting behind your ear, but
for some strange reason nobody in Ikea does this. If you find the short cut you
can avoid the long, long walk round the furniture departments, and if you go
early in the morning you can avoid the long, long queues at the checkouts. This
is what you need:
Bits and pieces
Then you need some things from a DIY store:
- 6mm diameter bolts, washers and wing nuts x 16
- No more nails glue
- Self-adhesive Velcro tape 2.4m long
- Yellow emulsion paint
- Gold lacquer spray
- A double pulley and a single pulley
- Some string.
- Two cheap door knobs.
And I bought a roll of desert backdrop - because Sarah and Josh
were in the desert in Exodus. This came from Castle Hill Crafts
via their web site.
What to do
Pray. God has given you the talent to build a puppet theatre, and
you need to give him thanks. Or maybe he hasn't, and you need to ask for that
Then, using the
pdf scale drawing as a guide, draw out the shape of all the
bits on the MDF. Cut them out using a jigsaw, cutting them slightly oversize so
that you can file off the waste later. Wear a dust mask - cutting MDF creates
lots of very fine dust.
Be very careful to cut the joints in layer 2 so
that you get accurate right angled corners. I cut out the top piece and laid it
on the next bit of MDF on the kitchen floor (the largest flat floor in our
house). Then I measured 1200mm across the top and 900mm down the side and
rotated the top piece slightly until the diagonal measurement was exactly
1500mm (a 3:4:5 triangle). Then I used the top piece as a template to mark the
line of the joint on the other bit of MDF. Like this:
Next, you need to glue the layers together. Some of the edges line
up and these will be filed down after the layers have been fixed together.
Other edges need to be filed down before.
Roughen the MDF so the glue
will stick better. Apply no more nails (other brands of PVA glue are available)
and stack up the layers. Place the stack on a sheet of polythene on a level
floor, and put a heavy object - I used my toolbox - on the top. After a minute
or two remove the heavy object and wipe away the surplus glue that has squeezed
out of the edges. Take a moment to appreciate the wisdom of that advice about
the polythene, and then put the heavy object back.
No more nails usually
sticks quite well after ten minutes or so, but I found that these stacks took a
bit longer. I stood them up and leaned them against the wall, and some of the
layers came apart. (I think it was probably because the MDF is not very
absorbent.) So, leave the glued stacks flat on the floor overnight. They don't
need the heavy weight on top all this time.
Fix the pieces of wood using
countersunk screws, with a bit of filler on top so they are not visible in the
finished article. You should end up with four main pieces, as in the picture on
the right. Again, take care when you fit the screws that connect the four
pieces to make the rectangular frame, so that the corners end up as accurate
The side frames are fairly straightforward. It is
essential that the piece at the bottom sticks out in front of the
theatre. Otherwise the whole thing will fall over easily: the proscenium arch,
with all that MDF, is quite heavy and so the centre of gravity is very close to
Fix the side frames to the proscenium arch using bolts and
wing nuts. Attach the diagonals and the bits across the back in a similar way.
It's a good idea to cut off the surplus ends of the bolts, and file off any
sharp corners, so that people (or puppets) don't snag their
Paint the proscenium arch. I used:
- MDF (or 'difficult surfaces') primer
- Yellow emulsion paint
- A coat of spray-on gold lacquer to give it a bit of
It's curtains for you
Attach the curtain poles to the side frames and to the back of the
The curtains at the side simply need to be cut to
length. Fold the bottom over and fix it using the Ikea Sy hem tape. There are
rings at the top of the curtains so they fit directly on the poles with no
However, the curtains at the front are a different matter.
First you need to cut them so the top half can be used behind the proscenium
arch and the bottom half can be used at the bottom to hide the puppeteers. Fix
two of the top halves together side by side using Ikea Sy hem tape, and then do
it again for another top half curtain. Fold the bottom over and fix using more
For the bottom part, again fix the pieces side by side and finish
the bottom using hem tape. At the top the tape will not be enough - you need to
pleat the curtains so that the total width is correct. Use a sewing machine to
make the pleats permanent; also sew on a length of velcro (fluffy side). The
velcro won't stick properly to the material, but the hooked part will adhere
perfectly well to the bottom of the proscenium arch.
If you really like
using the sewing machine - or if you think the hem tape won't stay stuck for
ever (a reasonable concern) - sew all the joins and hems.
Work out where
the person who opens the curtains will stand, and fix the double pulley near
that end of the curtain pole. Fix the single pulley at the other end. Thread
the string through as shown in the diagram. Remember to tie the outer ends of
the curtains to something fixed.
Take it to the church
You will need to dismantle the side frames, and separate the
proscenium arch into its four constituent parts, in order to fit the pieces in
your car. VW Beetle recommended:
It's best to remove the curtain poles as well, so you don't snag
the upholstery of the car on them.
At the church, put it all back
together. The best way to do this is to find a couple of church tables and lay
the proscenium arch face down on them. Bolt the side frames and the bracing on,
screw on the curtain poles, and then tip it all upright.
curtains - you'll need a stepladder - and sort out the string. Fix the backdrop
using sellotape. It will tear when you move the theatre - just repair it with
Check the wing nuts every time you move the theatre -
they tend to shake loose.
Can I borrow it?
Contact me via the about
page and we'll talk about it. You'll need to fit in with St James's plans
for using the theatre, promise to look after it and sort out the
Sarah and Josh -
the children of Israel