Works of art and photographs can be used as powerful inspiration for drama activities. Pictures can soon be brought to life through still images, thought tracking and improvisation.

Choose an image that depicts a range of characters. The picture should be big enough to be seen by the whole group – ideally projected on to the wall – or a large poster displayed where everyone can talk about it together.

Ford Madox Brown painted 'Work' between 1852 and 1865. The painting is of a lively street scene in Victorian Hampstead, London and shows a group of navvies (road-diggers) hard at work as well as a spectrum of social classes ranging from the homeless and the unemployed to a chickweed-seller, an MP and political protestors.

Ford Madox Brown painted ‘Work’ between 1852 and 1865. The painting is of a lively street scene in Victorian Hampstead, London and shows a group of navvies (road-diggers) hard at work as well as a spectrum of social classes ranging from the homeless and the unemployed to a chickweed-seller, an MP and political protestors.

Examine the picture with the participants, highlighting any issues you want to discuss such as relationships between the characters and where the picture is set. Explain that the group is going to bring the picture to life by making a three-dimensional tableau. Invite the participants to look carefully at the picture and to place themselves in the space as one of the characters. As they enter they should say who they are and make a freeze frame of their chosen character as accurately as possible.

When you have enough people to represent all (or most of) the characters, you can move onto thought tracking. Walk around and amongst the characters, tapping them on the shoulder one by one to hear their thoughts. When you have heard them all, explain that the picture will come to life for a few moments when you clap your hands. If it is a complex picture you can use spotlighting to find out what is happening in different parts of the tableau. As you walk around the group, invite each sub-group of characters to come to life and be heard. As you move away, they should freeze back into a tableau. Suitable artists include Pieter Brueghel, L. S. Lowry, Ford Madox-Brown and William Hogarth or photographers such as Cartier-Bresson.

Explore this technique in depth at our one-day workshop Primary Drama Across The Curriculum.

Get Free Drama Ideas!

Get Free Drama Ideas!

Sign up here for the free Drama Resource Newsletter bringing you news, reviews, tips and tricks every month. You will also receive a free introductory course of emails including FREE SAMPLES of four best-selling drama books by David Farmer and access to additional drama games and techniques. You may of course unsubscribe at any time.

You have Successfully Subscribed!