So .. theatre games? Love them – or don’t see the point?
I LOVE them. If you have a group that meets regularly and you want them to learn how to work together, improve performance skills, gain confidence and awareness on stage, you need to play games. The word ‘games’ conjures up an activity that is designed to amuse us. Ok, we may be aware that on some level we’re being tested, but generally you can find a game where to ‘play’ doesn’t take too much effort (or you could just opt to lose if you really can’t be bothered). But theatre games are not only fun, they are the lifeblood of our performing skills and ensemble work. Over the next few months I’m going to write about the games I really like, the ones I find useful and engaging and the ones I’ve devised for youth theatre/school sessions.
The Slow Motion Race
The game is tremendous fun and I heartily recommend it for many reasons:
You learn to:
1. Be aware of and to control your body
2. Work as part of a group
3. Be aware of everything happening around you
4. Respond to the actions of others spontaneously
5. Put your ideas into action immediately (without discussion)
(It’s also fun to watch)
This probably works best with a group of 12 – 16. More could be ok, but it becomes a lot more difficult for your group to create a scene that’s coherent – and that’s important.
Divide your group into runners and spectators.
Mark out the race track
Put your spectators on either side
Get your runners on the start line
Read the rules
- All action MUST be in slow motion. The slower the better
- No one can speak or make a noise
That’s it really as far as rules go
You can decide to have ‘winners’ in your race – if you do make the winner the one who takes the longest!
Get the race going and see what they do …
Your runners get to the end of the track
Did they act as a group?
I doubt it. Most people will have their own ideas and they’ll want to carry them out. They may respond to others around them to some degree, but you’ll have a lot of things going on and your spectators may or may not be watching the race (depending on the agenda they’ve worked out for themselves). If you can get them all to stop laughing long enough try and discuss what they were all doing. Now, let’s go again…. maybe you’ll want to change everyone around.
This time let’s give a few more guidelines:
- Explain that they have to create ONE scene. Not many separate scenes. This means they have to not only be aware on what else is going on, but they have to be able to respond to it and be part of the action that someone else has initiated.
- Pool ideas about the kind of things that might happen. In my races I positively encourage cheating, pushing, running onto the track, shouting (without noise) – even the odd spot of fisticuffs!
- Suggest they might like to adopt a character – in a very simple sense though, nothing complex (there’s always one person sitting quietly with head down, or pacing around at the back and later they’ll explain that their ‘character’ is depressed and their rabbit just died…ummm)
Now run the race again and see what happens.
See what works and adapt your feedback to encourage a tighter race but don’t be tempted to start directing it. Try out different ideas, rules and guidelines to make your races more challenging – or just different. One of the real benefits is that your group will learn to respond to what’s happening around them without the need for direction (but within the constraints of the game rules). The confidence to tune in to what’s happening in the group and respond spontaneously is invaluable for improvisation and scripted performance – especially when it doesn’t go according to Plan A. The discipline to stay within the rules but to be creative and work with others makes ensemble work a joy.
It is also very very funny and I’ve never had a group that didn’t love it!