Jessica Swale brings her directorial experience to the fore in her third book for the Nick Hern Drama Games series. Time spent playing games may be seen by some as squandering precious rehearsal time, but Swale’s offerings should prove invaluable to creative directors, writers and actors wishing to develop an ensemble approach. The games will also aid interpretation of the text, and many of them can be incorporated into the rehearsal process itself.
Part one comprises twenty-two warm-up activities which will delight actors and directors of any level of experience, covering fun games and exercises for physical and vocal warm-ups, concentration exercises and developing an ensemble. These accessible and lively games are all different to those in previous volumes by Swale. Some are adaptations of well-known drama games while others reflect influences of contemporary directors and choreographers.
Part two focusses on games for approaching scripts from any genre. As well as shedding light on plot and characterisation, the games are terrifically fun to play and have amusingly memorable titles, such as ‘The Rubber Duck of Doom’. The third and largest section of the book outlines games and activities for individual genres, such as Greek tragedy, Georgian comedy, Shakespeare and physical theatre, pulling together activities to illuminate the text and characters as well as challenge and nuance the actors’ performances. The author stresses that the activities are not limited to one particular genre - games in any section can be adapted for other genres.
The section on new writing is designed not only to help interpret the text but also to aid the writing - invaluable for companies who mount their own work or work with writers - and indeed any playwright looking to examine their work in new ways.
So much more than a book of drama games, Swale’s ideas provide working methods and creative approaches which will help anyone involved in developing a production, from the budding director to those working with experienced actors in the professional sector. Furthermore, they provide an intriguing insight into the author’s directing style as she draws on her wide experience including Shakespeare’s Globe and the West End as well as her authorship of hit plays such as ‘Blue Stockings’ and the Olivier Award-winning ‘Nell Gwynn’.