Friday, November 09, 2007

... and then I did the Thesaurus...

I've been playing charades. Charades is a game where one player imitates a famous book or a movie or a famous person or a famous person's dog, and the other players imitate interest. When one of the other players guesses what book or movie or person or dog you are imitating, you swap, so they get their turn to imitate somebody, and you get your turn to imitate interest*.

Say, for instance, you were to imitate Hemingway's famous book A Farewell to Arms. One way to do this would be to have your arms drop off.
"Oh my God, your arms have dropped off!" will shout one person.
"Get a doctor!" shouts another person.
"Hemingway!" shouts a third. "A Farewell to Arms! Good one, old bean!"
There is, however, a slight danger that one of the other players could mistake your gambit and think you're imitating the medical textbook, 'So - you've lost an arm', or that famous marital handbook, 'Marriage: is it worth losing an arm and a leg for?'** And then, what have you got, but a ruined game of charades and a pair of arms in the wrong place?

Some titles present quite a challenge to the ordinary charades player. For instance, if you were given the book The Old Man and the Sea, you would first imitate an old man and a sea, and then you would imitate a a definite and an indefinite article, and then the other players would imitate losing interest (easier than imitating interest). Then again, if a player is given George Orwell's 1984, all they have to do is imitate the number 1984, (or the number one, one thousand nine hundred and eighty four times), and the title will be easily guessed.

Once I was playing charades with a person who was given the title Oxford Modern English Dictionary to imitate. In turn he took on the character of a famous English college, something Modern (I'm not sure what, I think it was by Dali), an English man, and you don't want to know what he did for the word 'Dictionary'. Later, he was given An Illustrated History of the Great Wall of China, and he did give a performance as a Chinese-speaking wall, but it wasn't that great - and so he had to sit down.
On another occasion, he attempted to convey to us (through a series of tableaus involving money and facial expressions) Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. But we mistook 'Sensibility' for 'Sentimentality', and so he failed there, too.

This same person once gave the single most bravura performance I have ever seen: he was given the book title A Children's Alphabet, and proceeded to successfully imitate every single letter in the alphabet in succession, only to get transfixed on the lower-case 'v'. By this time, however, every other player had become bored and were doing quite a successful imitation of Raymond Chandler's first novel.

On the whole, I don't think charades has too much to recommend it, but it's still an enjoyable game. I'd play it again, but whenever I suggest it to others, people suddenly seem to have a sudden, inexplicable interest in the sport of lawn bowls. Such is life.

*Imitating interest is not as easy as it doesn't look, that's all I can say.

** A mistake often made by dyslexic people, and quite dangerous too - as it often doesn't leave me with a leg to stand on.


Roman Catholic tea emporium said...

Imitating interest

You may try to play it cool, but I'm sure you take to the charades field with some gusto. Indeed, one suspects that you yourself could well be the chap who played the OED.

TimT said...

I don't know about that, I'd probably get confused about acting styles trying to do a Charades version of James Joyce's story, The Dead

Catlicker tea distributors said...

God, it's been a while since I read Dubliners. That's the one at the end, isn't it?

I think the best idea is probably to pick something with a good bit of violence in the title, so your hand gestures can be as animated as possible. That way no one notices your over acting. I wonder, idly, what the method acting version of charades would be like...

TimT said...

Method acting in charades?

"You are not just imitating this preposition, you are this preposition. What does it eat for lunch? What is it actually like sitting in that sentence? You need to know this to really take on the character of a preposition..."

TimT said...

The much-neglected Stanislavski school of parlour games... ah, yes.

irish breakfast in the evening said...

One could write a series of biographies of the prepositions, if one had a lot of free time on one's hands and had reached the end of one's interest in charades.

I actually own a battered copy of An Actor Prepares. I think I may have read as much as the first chapter. That's the title you would need to method act, naturally, although method acting the title of "Mother Courage" could be quite the thing.

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