Silent shapes & Silent tableaus – quiet drama warm-up games

Silent Shapes (and the more advanced Silent Tableaux/Tableaus) are great games for encouraging students to think physically as a group & as individuals, to encourage different methods of non-verbal communication and to get them in the mood for a more focused drama session rather than a chaotic one! They’re sibling games to Silent Sorting – but with more of a physical emphasis.

Divide up the group in teams of around five or six people and ask them to silently form various shapes. They can either form the shape as if it is to be viewed from above (a bird’s eye view) or front on – some shapes are easier one way than the other. Everyone in the team must be involved in each shape/tableau.

If it encourages your group, add a competitive element – the quickest groups score a point but do give extra points for creativity too.

Some shapes for them to form:

  • A square – with equal sides and right-angle corners
  • The number 8
  • An upper case/capital H
  • The number 4
  • A percentage symbol (%)
  • Two triangles – with appropriate pointy corners
  • A cube – with equal sides – including height!
  • An upper case/capital A then a lower case/small a – then ask them to move from one to the other in as few moves as possible
  • An elephant
  • The Eiffel Tower or a working Tower Bridge
  • An aeroplane – then as an add-on, ask the aeroplane to move (changes may be necessary)

(Keep to simpler ideas for younger/less able groups, challenge older ones!)

group lying on the floorThe Silent Tableaux are better for older students – or for when you want to emphasise the idea of creating interesting visual ideas for the stage.

These should be mostly freezes but some limited movement may be appropriate in certain situations. If the groups aren’t working well together, ask them to (silently) appoint a director for each tableau to (silently) lead the development.

As they’re more complex, groups will probably need slightly longer to work on them than the simple shapes.

Some tableau ideas:

  • A square where everyone’s face can be seen from the front (encourage different heights)
  • A family portrait photo
  • A boat tableau
  • A scene about intimidation
  • A living room scene
  • A forest scene (the mood of the forest is up to them – it could be creepy, it could be happy)
  • A clock
  • A royal procession

Challenge older/more able students by asking them to think about different theatre forms for different tableaus – for example, a living room scene for working in the round.

Group size: any size, divided up into smaller groups of around five or six

Length: 5-10 minutes depending on the number of rounds/ability of the group

Have you used this game with your class?

  • Did they like it?
  • Did you find it useful?
  • Did you change anything?

We'd love to hear what you think!