Drama Game Spotlight #2: ‘Death Tag’!

This is one of the hallmark games of the Corn Exchange theatre company, based in Dublin. They make incredible ensemble based work, and I absolutely adore this game. It’s really useful for a large group, especially if they’re full of energy. It gets them to channel their giddiness into a really high focus exercise early on.

So you start by playing tag as normal. One person’s ‘it’, when they tag someone else, that person’s it. As they play, start to ask them where the focus is. If there was an audience, where would their eye be drawn?

Then, introduce the rule that you can only move when the person who’s It moves. So now the person who’s It dictates the pace. Have the group copy the energy and pace of the leader! While you’re side-coaching them, have the group notice what happens to the energy of the room when someone gets tagged. How everything stops for a moment… Then starts up again with a new energy.

Now for the bit that gives the game its namesake. Introduce the rule that, when you get tagged, you die. Horribly. Spectacularly. As melodramatically as you can. Then, after you die… leave it for a beat. Then come back to life. Now it’s your turn to kill…
This is where things get a bit stylized and mental. Start to encourage the group to use mime, and be creative. Soon you don’t even need to use tag. You could use a mimed bow and arrow to get someone across the room. And then they come back to life and cast a spell on someone else. Or someone blows a deadly kiss. Or someone just does something random and their victim dies of laughter… maybe several people die at once and work together to pick a new victim when they all revive!

When side coaching, don’t let the participants get to the death too quick! Have them notice how they can ramp up the tension, and ramp up the enjoyment! The build up is the fun bit. Both the victim and the killer need to work together, to give each other their moments to shine. It’s introducing the ideas of give and take in improvisation and stagecraft.

Eventually, once the group’s gotten used to each other, you can drop the death part entirely and turn the game into its purest form; just a free form give-and-take improv where the participants keep passing the focus around the room! 

I’ll be talking a little bit more about one possible way to explore this in the next blog post!

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Liam Hallahan

DRAMA FACILITATION INTERN

Liam is an American-born, Dublin-based Theatremaker and Drama Facilitator. He holds a B.A. in Drama from the D.I.T. Conservatory of Music and Drama, and a First Class Honours Certificate in Directing for Theatre from N.U.I. Maynooth. He has worked with adults with learning difficulties, young people on the autism spectrum, as well as with youth theatres and schools in Ireland, France and Belgium. As an actor, previous credits include REDPILL, which was nominated for the Outstanding Performance Award at Prague Fringe 2017, as well as the Emerald Isle Theatre Company’s 2015-6 tour (Belgium + France). Directing credits include ‘The Shape of Things’, ‘Beyond Therapy’, ‘Picnic on the Battlefield’ and the Irish Premiere of ‘In Arabia We’d All Be Kings’ for Some Yank’s Theatre Company. He is currently completing his training in Youth Theatre Ireland’s Artstrain Drama Facilitation Programme.

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