One-off Workshop: Melting objects
Sunday, December 1, 2019
A one-session lesson plan for all age groups
I have used the activities here, all based on the theme of melting objects, with Key Stages 1 to 4 – and they work equally well across the whole age range. Younger students love the challenge of keeping still, but there's plenty for older age groups to work on too; mime, controlled movement and lack of facial expression require discipline and concentration and can be used to create great atmospheric effect.
Ask all students to find themselves a space. Tell them that they are to imagine they're a frozen ice lolly in a freezer; the type of ice lolly is up to them and they should try to show the shape of the ice lolly they choose physically in their mime – Rocket, Twister, Fab, 99 Flake, and so on. Once everyone is in role, announce and mime that you are turning the freezer off. Now the class must slowly defrost as they imagine their lolly would – slowly going soft and limp and eventually melting in a puddle on the floor.
Main exercise – Halloween at the Waxworks
This improvised play works well with all age groups and it can easily be adjusted to fit a particular time frame – shortened for a class assembly or lengthened for an end of term production, and so on, with the number of characters being increased as required. The roles of the waxworks are good parts to give to pupils who may not like or are unable to cope with too much dialogue.
It opens with night-time at ‘The End of the Pier Waxwork Museum.’ All waxworks are standing in character, as still as they can be. Three teenagers enter the museum giggling and prodding the exhibits, joking about how easy it was to sneak in, (they managed to open the old, broken back door once the caretaker had gone home). They are congratulating themselves on what a good idea it was to tell their mums that they were staying at each other's houses so they could stay out all night.
One of them says they think the waxworks are a bit creepy – their eyes appear to follow you round the room. The others laugh, telling their friend not to be daft. They all start being silly, pulling faces at the statues and saying things like; ‘Ooh you are gorgeous’ and laughing more and more. One of the group glances at their watch and says that it's twelve o'clock on Halloween night and that's when all the spooks come out. They pretend to be scared and giggle and scream. As this is going on the waxworks slowly start to move; starting with their eyes, then their heads, then their fingers, followed by turning at the waist and finally legs and feet ’ faces remain blank throughout.
One of the teenagers realises the waxworks are coming to life and screams; all three are terrified and start to back away as the waxworks very slowly walk towards them – zombie style, arms outstretched. The teenagers say, ‘What are we going to do? They are blocking the way out’, and so on.
Finally, one of the group has an idea; they take a lighter out of their pocket and hold it up to one of the waxworks – it starts to burn and melt. They quickly do the same to all the other waxworks and they all mime melting until eventually they are puddles on the floor. One of the teenagers notices that the museum has caught fire too and all three run to the door – just as the police turn up. The teenagers escape before the police can catch them. The police officers decide to leave the fire-fighting to the fire brigade, saying as they leave, ‘I can't imagine what has happened here tonight – can you?’
If you decide to turn this improvisation into a performance piece, it does benefit from some simple costumes. The waxworks' clothes and props will obviously depend on the characters chosen, such as a football kit and football – some of the group will probably own ballet shoes, tutus and so on for ballerinas, and nearly everyone will have suitable clothes for a pop star.
The three teenagers should be dressed in something fashionable. Policeman's helmets, if available, can just be coupled with dark coloured clothes. Atmospheric music really helps to give the melting scene a very dramatic, creepy feel.