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KS3 Performing Arts: Soho Square (1993)

Use this animation to inspire a dialogue free group improvisation

Main image of KS3 Performing Arts: Soho Square (1993)
Author Poppy Simpson, BFI
Topic Interpretation, perspective, movement
Show full lesson spec

The atmosphere, sounds and sights of Soho Square on a summer's day.

Soho Square (1993) is an unusual 'animation'. Director Mario Cavalli began by shooting footage of the everyday goings-on of this square in the centre of London. This formed the basis of a choreographed performance by actors wearing prosthetics to exaggerate certain aspects of different characters' bodies. Finally, the footage was re-coloured and manipulated. This short film really tests the limits of the definition of animation as the majority of what we see on screen is live-action performance.

This lesson idea encourages students to improvise sequences based around everyday locations and consider how theatre and film differ in the way they engage an audience with a group of characters.

Lesson Objective

  • To develop a group performance using the extract and their own experiences as inspiration.
  • To reflect on the tools and techniques used to develop character and engage audiences in both theatre and film, and to identify certain differences and similarities.


Begin by telling students a bit about the making of the film so that they understand that it is not a typical animation in that it uses mostly live-action performance. You may wish to let them read through the Screenonline analysis of the film by Ruth Lingford (link on the right).

Now ask them to think about the ideas behind the film: why do they think the director chose this location? What does he appear to be interested in showing? Students might need prompting: what different characters can they identify? What is each character doing in the square? Are there obvious differences between them? What is the difference between the life of the square and the lives of the people that move about it?

You might ask students to give one or more characters a voice to help them think in more detail about the people in the film. Ask students to work in small groups, with one person taking on the role of interviewer while the others assume the role of different characters in the film.


Main Attraction

Using the film as inspiration, ask small groups to devise their own short choreographed performance based around a familiar location or situation, in which people move around each other without speaking. Since their devised pieces will be dialogue free, encourage students to think carefully about movement and how they will portray their characters physically. They will also need to think carefully about the 'rhythm' of the piece: will everyone be constantly in motion or moving. Or will the focus move from character to character?

Depending on the nature of your class, you may wish to give the groups situation cards (ie. School playground, at the supermarket, at the gym, in a waiting room, at a busy junction, in the library/at a museum) to focus their performance.

If you are feeling a little more ambitious, you might even use a digital camera to record an everyday location, play it to the whole class and ask the various groups to come up with their own take on the footage.

After watching the performances: What do students think worked well in the pieces they watch? What might have been improved?


End Credits

Finally, ask students to think about the differences between the pieces they have just performed as theatre and the performance edited together in Soho Square. You might want to watch the clip through again: the director uses close ups and frames his shots using various perspectives. How does this impact on the audience's engagement with the characters? How is this different to the techniques employed in theatre in order to draw the audience's attention from one character to another? Can a theatre director 'frame' scenes? How?


External Links

Video Clips
Extract (2:00)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Soho Square (1992)Soho Square (1992)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of Box of Delights: Soho Square (1992)Box of Delights: Soho Square (1992)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque Box of Delights DVD