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«‘Tall Stories sets the benchmark for children’s theatre’ Sunday Times ‘Full of magic and music’ EdinburghGuide.com ‘This lovingly staged ...»

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Still Life If Mr Benn were a colour, what colour would he be? If he were an item of clothing, what would he be? What vegetable would he be? Or what animal? Collect some objects and pictures and textures and colours that you think could represent the character of Mr Benn. Position them as you think would suit him and then take a picture of them, creating a still life representation of him. You can do exactly the same thing for the character of the Shopkeeper – how very different is his still life picture? This is often a way that is useful for us when creating a show to find more details for characters and make them feel more real and three dimensional.

Professional Statues Write out on sheets of paper some of the characters or jobs that Mr Benn dressed up for – a cook, a diver, a cowboy and so on. Are there any other jobs that you can think of that weren’t in the show? A pilot? A ballerina? A teacher? Write those out too and pin them all up around the room. All stand in a circle and on the count of 3 make a statue of one of the words. See if you can guess what other people’s statues represent. Do this a few times in a circle and then get into groups. Decide in your group what profession you’re going to show and make an interesting group statue of that job. Can the other groups guess what job you’ve all chosen to do?

Clothes Maketh the Man Start with a selection of random items of clothing – a tie, a hat, a big coat, a headscarf, an apron etc. Pick just one of the items of clothing – what does it feel like? What does it smell like? Try it on – how does it feel to wear it? What sort of person do you think would wear it? Once you have decided on what type of character might wear this item of clothing, have a walk around the room and see if you can change the way you move to become this new character. Think about how your feet move. And your knees. And your arms. Work upwards and even think about how your eyes might move. Do you move around the space quickly or slowly? Do you walk in straight lines or squiggles? How easily do you make eye contact with the other characters in the room? Take it in turns to stop and have a look at some of the weird and wonderful characters that people have created – all from just one item of clothing! We often develop characters in our shows using techniques like this in order to find their physicality – how a character moves is as important as what they say and how they say it!

Character Choice Choose ONE of the characterisations from the previous exercise and everyone else in the room try and copy precisely what that character does. The way they walk and look at things and even what expression their face is pulling. As everyone is walking round the room in, what should be, a very similar way, each choose ONE thing to push to an extreme – maybe it’s the swing of the arms, or the pace of the walk, or the nod of the head. Now, as everyone is developing a more individual and extreme character, what sound do you think your particular character would make? It could be just a sound or maybe even a whole phrase. Once everyone has established their new character, what happens if they meet each other? What does your sound or phrase make other people feel? Do you get on with these other people?

Activities (7-10 year olds, continued) A Little Souvenir If you had the chance to dress up as anything at all in the world (or out of this world), what would it be? Draw a picture of yourself wearing this extraordinary costume. Make sure you show all the colours and textures of the outfit. Perhaps you could use different bits of material to make a collage of this costume. Now think, if you found yourself dressed in this special outfit and stepped through the magic door of the Shopkeeper’s changing room, where do you think you would find yourself? What world would you be in? Who would you want to meet? What kind of adventure would you have? In the stories, Mr Benn always comes away with a memento or a souvenir of where he’s been to remind him of his adventure. What object would be perfect to remind you of your adventure? Make a model of this souvenir out of plasticene.

Claymation Fascination Using the model of the souvenir from your adventure, can you bring it to life, or make it move across the room, or make it grow? See if you can create a short animation of your object using an animation program you can find at www.clayanimator.com.

Wish you were here Imagine that you are Mr Benn and have been transported through the changing room door to a far-off land. What land would you most like to travel to? Pretend that you are exploring there and write a postcard to someone back home (who would Mr Benn write to? A work colleague? His postman? His mum?) describing what you are seeing and doing and feeling. Do you mention the strange way that you got there?!

And Now For Our Next Guest...

Set the room up with a few chairs in front of an audience. Someone can volunteer to be the chat show host or questions can simply come from members of the audience. Taking it in turns to be either Mr Benn or the Shopkeeper (or even Princess Picky or the Sea Monster...) imagine that you have just returned from one of your adventures and tell the audience a little bit about it. The audience (or the chat show host) can ask questions – how did you feel when that happened? Would you like to go back again? Where do you live? – any question is allowed.

Whoever is being interviewed must answer immediately and without too much thought – the more detailed the answer the better – and remember, there are no wrong answers, whatever you say is the truth! This is an exercise that is called ‘hotseating’ and is used frequently by actors to find out more about their characters, by seeing what comes out of their mouth without thinking about it first!

When All’s Said and Done Do you think the show has a message at all? If so, what might it be?

What a Hero Mr Benn chooses to go to the party at the end of the show as the hero SuperBenn, realising he’s not just the ordinary man that he once thought. At the end of each of his adventures in the play he’s also referred to by the other characters as a hero because he has helped them out in some way. Who is one of your heroes and why? Mr Benn proved that by being thoughtful and helping other people in small ways is heroic. Can you think of any ways that you have been ‘heroic’ recently?!

Resources en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_McKee For more information about David McKee you could take a look at this page.

www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/games/by/type/dressupgames Check thi spage out for dressing up games and other creative games.

www.fluxtime.com www.clayanimator.com More information and fun with animation.

www.activityvillage.co.uk/magic_tricks.htm To get a taste for magic!

www.tallstories.org.uk Anything you need to know about Tall Stories and all of our past and future shows can be found here.

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