Hansel-Gretel-StampFairy and folk tales are useful in drama sessions for children and adults as they provide a common point of reference and contain universal characters and themes. They offer an opportunity to develop new work using a familiar structure. The stories can be used as a launch pad in various ways to lead into rehearsed performances, improvisations, a series of tableaux or oral storytelling. Groups may want to stick closely to the story or simply use it as a starting point. The following activities all involve fairy tales.

I have included a list of some commonly-known tales as an aide-memoire. For further ideas try Aesop’s Fables or any collection of folk tales from around the world.


Just a Minute

Age: 10 to adult
Players: Small Groups
Time: 20 minutes
Skills: Improvisation, Devising

Give each group ten minutes to prepare a one-minute performance of a fairy tale. Rehearsal isn’t important. Focus on making sure the group all know the story, cast the characters and away you go! The fun is in trying to fit everything in to a minute – be strict and use a timer.


Mix and Match

Age: 9 to adult
Players: Small Groups
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Skills: Improvisation, Devising

Introduce characters from one fairy story into another and you will immediately add layers of complexity which can lead to entertaining new versions. The groups can begin by writing some of their ideas down and then develop them into a group storytelling or a rehearsed improvisation.


What If?

Age: 8 to adult
Players: Small Groups
Time: 30 minutes +
Skills: Improvisation, Devising

Ask groups to choose a fairytale and then to take a few minutes to compile a number of “What if?” questions, such as:

  • What if… Jack’s Mum climbed the beanstalk
  • What if… Rapunzel cut off her hair
  • What if… the Ugly Duckling had turned out to be a turkey

The groups should choose their favourite question from the list (or combine one or two of them) and prepare a short improvised piece to perform to the other groups.


List of fairytales for drama lessons

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Beauty and the Beast
Dick Whittington
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Emperor and the Nightingale
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Fir Tree
The Fisherman and his Wife
The Frog Prince
The Gingerbread Man
The Golden Goose
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
The Goose Girl
Hansel and Gretel
Henny Penny
Jack and the Beanstalk
The Little Match-Girl
The Little Mermaid
The Little Red Hen
The Magic Porridge Pot
The Musicians of Bremen
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
The Princess and the Pea
Puss in Boots
Red Riding Hood
The Red Shoes
Sleeping Beauty
Snow White
The Snow Queen
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
The Three Little Pigs
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Tinderbox
Tom Thumb
The Ugly Duckling
The Wise Little Girl