REVIEW: Drama Menu At A Distance, Nick Hern Books ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Drama Menu At A Distance by Glyn Trefor-Jones published by Nick Hern Books.

Drama Menu at a Distance

Drama Menu At A Distance.
Nick Hern Books.
4 Stars
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Glyn Trefor-Jones’s Drama Menu: Theatre Games in Three Courses was first published in 2015, and quickly became established as an essential book for drama teachers and workshop leaders. Divided into starters, main courses and desserts, the book offers a range of improvisation exercise that the reader and teacher can select and create their own menu from. It’s been part of my workshop delivery since it’s publications, and now Trefor-Jones and the exceptional Nick Hern Books have responded to the Covid 19 crisis with this new edition, this time designed to keep a safe distance. It’s an invigorating, inspiring collection of 80 exercises, encouraging an embracing of the “new normal” whist continuing collaborative, creative thinking and working.

I have been working with a local theatre in delivering workshops within the (changing) rules and regulations, and it comes as a relief to see, in the Introduction, that the section on Staying Safe confirms the measures we have taken. (Utilizing ALL available spaces is essential!) Many of the exercise’s readers would have encountered in the first Drama Menu, but they have been adapted very simply, and there are new ones and new angles to enable online workshops to be delivered. My favourites here are Headline News, to be presented in gallery format, and Channel Hopping, involving different genres of TV. A particular strength of the book is that there are not 80 different ways to present a monologue, but a range of exercises. However, monologue opportunities are not ruled out, neither is The Scottish Play.

It’s a superbly reassuring book, even being reminded that the way we set out a stage, with separate areas such as centre stage, upstage, stage right etc., is a safe space anyway, is tremendously comforting. It underlines that drama workshops are still POSSIBLE, exciting and creative, and I know from the workshops I have run that social contact, creativity and laughter are essential for our mental health. (My group is for the over 50s, and the first workshop we met for was the first time some of them hadn’t been out of the house for six months- it was emotional and wonderful to see them again.) For however long we need to live with Covid 19, teachers, workshop leaders and anyone with an interest and care in drama needs to not just embrace the new normal, but embrace this innovative and inspiring book. Well done Nick Hern Books, (one of my personal heroes in this pandemic), for responding so quickly.

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