Patient | Carer Community Projects
Learning Disabled Adult Theatre Workshops

“A little less conversation a little more action...” – Elvis Presley


Exercise 1 - "In A Circle: The Name Game."

The group forms a standing circle (where possible), a person is selected to start the game (often one of the workshop leaders)to guide and model. They say their name, followed by a gesture. This can be an abstract 'silly' gesture, or something more specific like a recognised dance-move or mime; sometimes accompanied by a vocalisation (often this seems to happen quite naturally). The rest of the group then repeat the name and copy the gesture. The exercise is repeated around the circle until we are back at the start. This is an excellent ice breaker for groups, there is no right or wrong response, everyone looks a bit silly and has a great laugh. It’s a great exercise to establish a footing of all being equals.

Exercise 2 - "Dance in the Middle."

Music is played. A volunteer is asked to enter the centre of the circle and dance. The rest of the group copy the moves/dance style of the volunteer, applauding them when they are finished and they return to the circle. The game is repeated until everyone has danced in the middle. This is a great 'levelling' exercise, as the willingness to participate varies greatly, yet the workshop facilitator has leverage to ultimately have involved everyone by the end of the exercise. It is particularly useful to see participants who would normally have elevated status, (at times begrudgingly) become the same status as everyone when asked to perform this simple task.

This game uses a different mode of vocabulary, the physical vocabulary. For people with limited vocal abilities having his or her movements copied back is confirmation that they are being heard and that they are included in a large group event.

One student said that it was one of the most confidence boosting things she had ever done and it changed how she felt about herself.

Exercise 3 - "Tableaux."

The group is split into two, three or four sub-groups (dependant of group size). In this example, let's say we are dealing with three sub-groups. The facilitator moves around the circle giving each participant a number, "Okay, remember the number I give you ... One ... Two ... Three ... One ... Two ... Three ...". When this is complete the "ones", "twos" and "threes" gather together in different parts of the room. This initial organisational exercise is useful, increasing the focus and concentration of the group as a whole, as well as creating a slightly heightened state-of-mind and anticipatory atmosphere.

The facilitator explains, "Everyone knows what a photograph is. What we are going to do is create a photograph with our bodies, a frozen picture, a scene." (A tableaux is simply dramatic verbiage for 'frozen image'). Three separate titles are given to the groups, for example, "Helicopter Rescue", or "A day at the beach"; you can devise your own. The groups are told that they have five minutes to work together and discuss the kind of things that you might see in these scenarios, as well as what kind of people would be there and what they might be doing; then translate it into a physical manifestation of the scene. This exercise quickly fires peoples' imaginations and gives a fun challenge with shared responsibility, in which the whole group has a role of both director and performer. The time limit adds a sense of urgency, so as not to let the participants become too precious about the content.

When the five minutes is over, the participants are told to remember their individual positions then 'break the image' and relax. One group is selected to go first, the remaining two being the audience. With a clap of hands, or the word, "Action!", the group gets into position and the audience takes guesses as to what might be happening in the scene. This is then repeated for each group.

There is a tangible sense of shared pride in the groups' achievements in this exercise, as well as much in the way of the improvement of communication skills without being conscious of the learning which is taking place.

We ran this workshop at the international conference, "Where's The Patient's Voice". The group was made up of thirty people from diverse backgrounds; patients, clinicians, educators, professors, etc. The workshop evaluated highly, even being voted as one of the highlights of the conference.