Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The Transformation Game

Is it just me? When I’m going on walks, I’m always childishly delighted when I spot a face or an animal shape in a rock or a tree. It’s like playing The Transformation Game, only in the landscape.

The Transformation Game

This storytelling game arose from my fondness for objects – plus the fact that, on a visit to Bruges, I’d acquired a double-lidded basket in a Sunday market. It became enormous fun to ply this basket with unusual objects, then play The Transformation Game with different suitable groups.

The Basic Plan:

As the facilitator, you first point out that you’ve got a double-lidded basket and that, inside, there are some interesting items.

Then you ask for a volunteer to come forward and choose which lid of the basket to open. Of course, both lids open onto the same inside but it’s a bit of fun to pretend that the choice is real.

Now you ask your volunteer to feel around in the basket and, not looking at what’s inside, to pull out an object of his or her choice. And of course, if it’s children you’re working with, they’re going to enjoy tittering about the possible things they might feel – a living snake or a real eye.

With children, a good next step in the classroom is to encourage some careful observation and words of description by inviting your volunteer to state some of the visible features of the object he or she has picked out.

Stage Two is when you invite this same volunteer to look again at the chosen object and fantasise about what it might become if it changed. Perhaps it could get bigger – or smaller – or become alive?

Stage Three is to invite other people in the group to add their ideas of what they think.

Who The Game Is For:

Ideal with Junior-Age children, the game is also excellent, in my experience, in groups of Adults with Learning Disabilities.

An Example from My Experience:

 I once played The Transformation Game over in Stratford East not far from where the London Olympics is about to be based. The occasion was part of a term-long project with a mixed group of adults with learning disabilities and with mental health problems. I was invited to come and work on the project by an inspirational artist who had a marvellous way of making things real.

The Transformation Game was one of my introductory storytelling activities. As the basket went round the group, one quite elderly man pulled out a small gnarled stick and, after handling it for a few moments, lifted his head and said: Dead Dog. Again and again he repeated the words, clearly loving both the sound they made and the response they evoked from the rest of us. Dead Dog …Dead Dog…Dead Dog.

That one little experience was often referred to in subsequent sessions. Becoming like a talisman of our work, it also ended up giving us the name of the show – The Dead Dog Show – which my artist colleague and I put together with the group over the course of the term.

The Dead Dog Show had a setting – Harold’s House – which derived from another group member’s response during another of our games. What Harold said in that game was ‘House’ (indicating, I think, that in his mind, we were all going to visit his house in our imaginations).

So it felt absolutely right that Harold’s House should become the setting and starting point of our show. At the end of the term, we presented the show in a series of ‘performances’ at local day centres and the people from the centres who attended (there were lots!) were all invited as they entered the space to draw or paint or cut out things which they’d like to see in Harold’s House. Portraits, clocks – all kinds of things were created and hung up in the space where we were about to perform.

The show was an enormous success. It made me realise how strong a sense of ownership and fun and creativity can originate from simple games where all can participate and contribute.

Next week: Fortunately/Unfortunately


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