The National Maritime Museum is filled with paintings of dramatic seascapes, far-away islands and polar expeditions.

Using just a few things from your recycling, and your imagination, you can turn them into a theatre and bring them to life!

Why not explore the collection and find a painting to inspire your theatre?

Explore the collection here!

We'll be using this painting as inspiration. 

Collection painting with a large trading junk in the foreground with it's sails down and some smaller ships in the background

You will need:

cardboard box, glue, tape, scissors, ruler, pencil, colouring pencils

One cardboard box (it can be any shape and any size, like a shoe box or cereal box)



Glue or tape


Colouring pencils, pens or paints, anything to decorate with!

Step 1

Chose a painting from the National Maritime Museum collection to inspire your theatre. Look at the painting, what do you see? What’s in the foreground? What’s in the background? What story is the painting telling?

Make a note of what you see, you’ll be making them into props for your theatre.

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Step 2

Now you need to build your theatre.

Find your cardboard box. Cut out three sides of your box, leaving a centimetre or two as a border. You will need one hole at the front through which to view your stage, and two holes either side, like the wings of your theatre. Don’t throw away the off cuts, you’ll need them to make your props!

Don't forget to decorate your theatre! You might want to add curtains to your theatre, or decorate the edges to frame your picture.

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Step 3

Now to create your backdrop.

Measure the height and width of the back wall of your theatre. Draw these measurements onto a plain piece of paper, creating an outline for your backdrop.

Then get creative! Paint, colour or collage your back drop, don’t forget to use your painting for inspiration.

Leave it to dry, or cut it out, ready to go into your theatre.

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Step 4

Create your props! Think about the different things in your painting that could become your props. They might be boats, islands, waves, clouds, icebergs, birds, or anything else you can see. Draw your props on a plain piece of paper and cut them out.

Remember they have to fit into your theatre so don’t make them too big!

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Step 5

Next, stick your drawings onto the leftover cardboard, and cut them out, leaving a long strip of cardboard on one side. This will be the handle for each prop.

If there isn’t enough cardboard, you can also use card, and stick handles on.

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Step 6

Decide what you want your set to look like by arranging your props all together.

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Step 7

Cut small slots into the bottom border of your theatre’s wings. This is where you will put the handle of your props, and where your props will sit on your stage.

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Step 8

Stick your backdrop onto the back wall of your theatre and place your props into their slots.

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Step 9

Create a story behind your painting, put on a show, and bring the painting to life!

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You did it!

Can you tell another story from one of our paintings?

Why not share your story with us on social media!