Monday, 5 October 2015

Lally Tullet

This short game is about delivering a monologue that recounts a notable event in a person's life: the monologue for each player may be comic, tragic or just a slice of life.

The Beginning

Start by agreeing some boundaries and limits, paying special attention to the tone of the game: some
players may want something gonzo, bringing in elements of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, then cooking them up with some extreme real world situations, while others might want something more down to Earth and almost meditative in it's approach. I recommend the latter: don't push to make your monologue as exciting and remarkable as you are capable of, aim for something slower and focus on the Orator's feelings about the tale over the events that occur in it. The purpose of this game is to practice your characterisation skills and how you communicate to other players: aim to get under your Orator's skin and spin a tale that enthrals.

You will each need five index cards or note-papers and a pencil; there are five rounds at the start of play where everybody writes something down on their paper, these elements then being used to weave each of your tales. The five rounds of preparation are:
  1. Location: The place the Orator is in when they begin their tale, keep the description brief to allow for someone else to fill in their own details as they tell their Orator's tale. Examples include a covered porch on a fine summer's evening, a young mothers' coffee morning, a corridor on a WWII submarine and so on.
  2. Theme: Write down a one word description of the theme of the Orator's tale, such as Betrayal, Ambition, Breakthrough, Holiday, Mistake, etc.
  3. Cast: Write down one or two very short descriptions of other characters who will feature centrally in the Orator's tale, but try to keep these neutral and open to interpretation in a range of narratives; use descriptions like 'cheating spouse', 'gifted daughter' or 'disturbing preacher' rather than ' vampire master-criminal' or 'stranded astronaut.'
  4. Event: Choose an event that will represent a turning point in the narrative; the event does not have to be the cause of the change in direction, but it should be simultaneous with it, e.g. an unexpected storm, the door-bell rings, the washing machine breaks down, Christmas Day, etc.
  5. Resolution: Write down any theme, event or character to represent how the tale will end, using the same guidelines as above.
Make sure to write down on the card the round it was written in, as it may not be obvious to others whether what is written on it is a Theme, Event, Resolution or whatever. As each round is completed, place all the papers for that round face down in a separate pile, so that at the end of this process, there will be five piles on the table, one for each round.

The Middle

Starting with the first round pile of Locations, give each individual pile a good shuffle and deal one paper out to each player: repeat this for all the other piles. You and every other player should now have five papers, one each for Location, Theme, Cast, Event and Resolution; check to make sure everybody has a full set and swap papers around if it is necessary to do so.

You should each now take a few minutes to read your papers and think about your story, in particular who your Orator is: you will note that the character telling the tale is not directly mentioned or described in any of the papers created, because this is for you and you only to decide. No-one else can tell you what the character of your Orator must be, so if they have attempted to do so in what they have written down, by loading their statements with assumptions about the Orator for example, you may feel free to ignore their suggestion.

Look in particular to the Location and Cast when deciding who your Orator is: ask yourself who would be in that location and how would they know these other people? The tale you tell is always a personal one from the Orator's own life, not a second-hand narrative about things that happened to friends of theirs, so think about how the elements on your set of papers describe your Orator's life and thoughts.

Frame the  Orator in your mind, then look at the Theme you have been dealt: this has to have meaning for your character, something they feel strongly about or which represents something significant to them. The tale you are about to spin should use this theme as its basis, whether it starts from there and moves on, builds to that as the climax or uses it as a twist halfway through, but wherever the theme lies in your telling of the tale, it must be central to what that tale signifies for your Orator.

Finally, look at your Resolution: this outlines how the situation your Orator describes is resolved, but that doesn't mean it has to come at the end of the tale, e.g. you might start your tale by saying "Did I ever tell you how I met my husband?"  or "That reminds me of the time I accidentally went to prison."

When any of you feels ready to do so, you may begin your tale.

The End

When it is your turn to tell your tale, start by setting the scene: it's best to do this out of character and to fill in details about the Location, such as the time of day, time of year, the lighting of the scene and especially who is present besides your Orator, as you must always be telling your tale to an audience. You may assume that the others players are in the roles of your audience, but they do not get to speak or otherwise contribute to your tale: the golden rule of the game is that you speak only when it is your turn as Orator and that you listen the rest of the time.

Once you have set the scene, describe your Orator briefly, enough to set them in the minds of the other players; once that is done, you can begin your tale. While you are speaking, you may assume questions from the other characters present, and answer them, but you must only speak in your own voice, you never take on the role of any other character, whether present in the scene or a character in your tale. You may quote characters in your tale in the third person only, e.g. "She said... he replied..."

Remember that the Orator's tale is a personal one, so focus on the events they were present for; if an event they were not present for is important to the tale, relate the circumstances under which they learned about it, e.g. "I was just getting ready to go out when the phone rang and I knew it couldn't be good news..." Always keep the narrative personal and always tell your audience how the Orator felt about it.

Joyce Grenfell, 1910-1979
Spin the tale to your audience in your own way, find the voice of your Orator and tell the tale the way they would, with interruptions, corrections and uncertainties: they might forget a bit of the narrative and then remember it later, they might answer a question or dismiss an interruption from their audience, they might even try to interrupt their own narrative with an observation that it is getting late, only for their audience to insist that they finish the story or answer an ambiguous point about it. Don't live the story, live the telling of it.

You should take at least 2 minutes to tell your story but no more than 10: once you start, speak until you have reached the end, allowing for breaks to take a drink, pause for breath or collect yourself. Once you have finished, take a few moments for the tale to sink into the minds of the other players before moving on to the next who takes a turn as Orator.