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Touring Theatre set from reclaimed pallets

Part One.

Around last Christmas time a friend approached me and asked for a favour, and at that time I didn't realise how big a favour that would turn out to be, but I also didn't realise at the time how much joy for others would be created by my doing this favour.

My friend is a member of a local amateur dramatics company call Crude Apaché, and for the 2014 outdoor performance season their big locally touring production would be a play called Gammer Gurton's Needle, which also happens to be acknowledged as England's second earliest extant comedy.

I was approached to make the "Flats" or pieces of scenery that could be moved about from one location to another and assembled easily. The basic specifications required the representation of two buildings. The first a Peasant's Hovel and the second an Inn.

I was given some basic dimensions to work from and a request for opening and closing doors, and then how it was made and from what it was made was left entirely up to me.

The peasants hovel was to be assembled from 2 pieces, the first with an opening top & bottom stable type door, and the second with an open window. The size of the panels were to be 6 feet High and 4 feet wide, with a door of only 5 feet high so as to make the actors playing the peasants stoop when entering and leaving the hovel.

The Inn was to be assembled from 3 panels each 8 feet high and 4 feet wide with an opening door in the first panel, a painted on window in the second panel, and an open window in the third panel. I was also asked if it was possible to make a quick to install and remove bracket for an Inn sign.

The chosen construction method was to be hand painted calico material on a timber framework, with each frame being connected to its partner quickly, efficiently and robustly. The original plan was to guy rope back and use weights for tie down if necessary: However I made such a good job of the hinge and pin arrangement to join the panels that the set was used free standing at all of the performances.

As with all community based projects and productions these days the budget was negligible, and generated from only voluntary donations and a "Chugging" bucket, so I decided to see if I could make the timber frame works completely free of charge from wood reclaimed from pallets, and to buy only a 1 litre bottle of D4 construction glue, door hinges and door catches. That way available budget funds would not be too stressed and could be better used elsewhere................... I succeeded, and succeeded extremely well as my spend for the glue and ironmongery came in at just under £20.00.

These days I will only collect larger than average two way opening wooden pallets for my projects because these yield the largest amounts of useable timber..... and generally speaking the pallet woodburning brigade will tend to leave these bigger types of pallets alone because without cutting them down insitu on site they are just too damn long to fit in a car even when stripped down.

Stripping the Pallets with my Cargo Cycles Pallet Dismantling Bar :

Making the frames:

I then found out that the frames were flexing a little too much when the door was being opened and closed, so I had to cut down some pallet stringers, make and install some diagonal braces into the basic frames to prevent the movement.

Me (at 5' 10" tall) stooping down and trying out the 5 feet high stable type door:

I really like this photo taken in the dark of the frames stacked up against our hedge:

Final checks of the tacked up steel bracket before final welding which I have made to support the Inn's sign:

and a quick fitting to check that I have got the sizes correct and to see if the position and effect is right:

Part two to follow:

Part Two

Some photographs of the set after it had been painted:

And the final performance of this production of Gammer Gurton's Needle at the Whiffler Open Air theatre at Norwich castle

The set was destined for destruction and disposal after this last performance, but there was no way in this world I was going to let that happen.

Suffice to say that after a lot of aggravation with two local Community projects who had agreed to store it for me here in Norwich, I have found a new home for this set. It is now in the good hands of another community theatrical company who support those with leaning difficulties: It is currently being used nightly at a community theatre in Great Yarmouth, and when the final curtain falls upon that production, the set will then be available for use by other am-dram societies, community, schools, church and youth groups, etc.  
Grandma Bodger

absolutely brilliant Gareth you  always were a clever devil


Nice one Gareth - I'm glad that it is going to be used over and over again

Great stuff Gareth.
Dave C

Excellent pal    well done

Well done mate!

I had a text message earlier this week, from the Total Immersive theatre group from North Walsham: this was the group who collected the set from me, and they had left 2 tickets for Lois and I at the reception desk of Yesterday's World in Great Yarmouth for last nights Vicotorian Murder mystery and buffet evening, so of course we went, and we both thoroughly enjoyed

Great job there and now being used in the best way ever
Yorkshire Geordie

Absolutely superb, Gareth.  

You are a true thespian friend and very clever to boot, forsooth!
A really impressive tale of derring-do, accomplishments and success.

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