Works of art, book illustrations and photographs can provide powerful inspiration for drama activities. Images can easily be brought to life through freeze frames, thought tracking and improvisation to create a 3D Living Picture.

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. Click the images below to see a full size view.

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 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. 

Explore this technique in our online course The Inspiring Drama Teacher.

Examples of Artists
Hieronymus Bosch
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
William Hogarth
L. S. Lowry
Ford Madox-Brown
Rembrandt
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Jan Steen
Adolphe Valette

Photographers
Cartier-Bresson
Alex Prager

Illustrators
Martin Handford (Where’s Wally)