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What you'll need...

  • Up-cycled materials found at home such as: clear plastic inserts from packaging, plastic food wrap or covering from packaging, coloured paper or tissue paper (black, blue, green or grey) and aluminium foil

  • PVA glue, or any water-based glue

  • Paints if you have them

  • Paint brush

  • Pot of water

Suitable for ages 5–14 Time guideline: 30 minutes

There are lots of ballets and operas that take place by, or even on, water. This presents a challenge for the set designer to represent water on stage, where it's not really practical to have real water. The ballet Swan Lake, for example, tells us in the title that there should probably be a lake on stage for the swans to swim in. There are operas set on the high seas such as The Flying Dutchman, where the sense of water crashing about a ship adds to the atmosphere. If you made your own model theatre in week one, you can have a go at trying to design water effects for it, but if not, have a go anyway, and see what effects you can create for other toys and models you might have at home.


Firstly, watch the following video, where professional theatre stage designer Ruth Paton explains how to create different watery effects with things you might have at home.


Decide what type of water you would like to make. Here are two ideas:

1. A serene lake. You could search the internet for images of lakes to inspire you.

2. A stormy ocean. You could search the internet for images of ships on the high seas for inspiration.

Pick one option and try to imagine what the water might look like. Is it smooth and serene or rough with crashing waves? Is it murky and full of weeds or clear and blue?


When you have decided what kind of water effect you want to make, use some of Ruth’s ideas to experiment. This may take a few different attempts. A lot of a theatre designers try things out several times before they find the right effect, so don’t be afraid of experimentation – there is no right or wrong! Just remember Ruth’s three different methods:

  1. Simply use plastic wrap or cling film crinkled over coloured paper or painted paper to create ripples. Stick this down with PVA glue.

  2. Use tin foil to get your structure and texture, and either paint it or glue on coloured tissue which you can then add paint to.

  3. Just use PVA glue and layer this up, allowing time for each layer to dry. You can add paint to the PVA to colour it, and even tiny pieces of paper to represent seaweed, or plants sticking out.


Once you have made your water effect, you can put it in your model theatre. Why don't you have a go at creating a scene around it? If you need dancers or singers, you can draw your own and cut them out, or use Lego or Playmobil figures. If you're feeling really creative, check out our video explaining how to paint a backcloth for your watery scene.

Remember that lighting can play a big part in making your stage effect look more convincing as water to the audience. Once your water effect is complete, try shining a torch or a light from a mobile phone onto the watery surface to see how it changes.

What I have learned...

  • How to use different materials to create different effects DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY

  • How to evaluate and compare your different design ideas DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY

  • How to listen and respond to different styles of music MUSIC

Don't forget – we'd love to see all the different watery designs you have created. Why don't you share your creations with us on social media? #kuuoliving

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