This is one of my favourite exercises, and one of the best I know to get a drama session off to a good start. When the exercise works well, it achieves the following:
It is FUN.
It gets people relaxed and often provokes a laugh.
It overcome shyness and breaks through the physical/contact barrier. But watch out for anyone who is genuinely uncomfortable with physical contact.
It is a useful contrast to the warm-up exercises which are solitary.
It develops a communal sense.
It provides a platform for later exercises. Many things can lead from it, including exercises in imagination, mime or as we saw at the workshop, an awareness of one self as part of a group; and that can be helpful for staging crowd scenes etc.
If you use this exercise – which works quite well with all age groups, though sometimes the floor can be hard on aged knees – be sure to set it up very clearly. Emphasize that the mud is nice to touch and squeeze and (yes!) sticky. It is warm too. I did this exercise in Rotorua once and had great difficulty because everyone doing the exercise thought the mud would be boiling!!! It took me a while to get the exercise back on track. In Holland people thought the mud would be cold and smelly and filled with worms! They did not want to touch it.
Get everyone to kneel down in a tight circle so that they are touching at least two other persons. Create a clear visual picture of the mud pool so that it is circular and the edge is just in front of everyone’s knees. The sun is warm and the air is sweet to breathe. Taking the initiative yourself, in pick up a handful of mud. Then make sure everyone picks up a clod of mud in their hands and that they get a sense of it being real. Ideally, you should spend a while shaping the mud into balls or writing your name in it or just playing with it. Make it imaginatively alive.
The key moment comes when you emphasize that it is very sticky and you can not get it off your hands. So what do you do? No one knows! Then you deliberately wipe the mud off on the person next to you. Then scoop up more mud and plaster the person on your other side. Encourage everyone to do this.
Now wade into the mud yourself and cause a bit of chaos. Everyone will soon get the idea. Remember the dafter you are, the more you make it possible for others to be a bit foolish… and everyone wants to be covered in mud! But watch to make sure no one gets too rough as that destroys the fun and the illusion.
If you notice that someone is holding back, take the initiative with them yourself. Put a dab of mud on the tip of their nose or on their shoulders or down their back and let them rub mud on you.
When you think this has gone on long enough – and it does not take very long – call a rest and, while maintaining the reality of the mud, (i.e. you are sitting the pool) explain about the imagination and then about silvering out.
IMAGINATION. Emphasize that the products of the imagination must always be treated as real. Thus you can’t just stop them, or drop them, you have to find an imaginative and logical way to get rid of them. Explain about silvering-out. Silver rain falls and where it lands the mud vanishes from hands, hair, face and floor etc until all is gone. The silver rain just drains away through the floor, and is gone. When this is accomplished, you are back as you were before the exercise started.
The point I am making about the imagination is valid in all circumstances. There are many ways in which the silvering out process can be used. With practice it can become almost instantaneous.
If the exercise has worked well, everyone should now be relaxed and focused and ready to move on to new exercises. Be prepared to answer any questions.