At Speechless we love to play Kingsquare. Some people call it Foursquare. Some people call it Ninesquare. All that matters, though, is the game.

And it’s a game that’s absolutely vital to our rehearsal process.

We tell stories with no words. To do that to any level, we have to be in control of our bodies. We have to be able to respond quickly and precisely to anything that happens on stage. We don’t have words to help us solve dramatic problems. So we need to know our bodies. And to help with that, we play a lot of ball games. Kingsquare, though, is the one we come back to all the time.

The court stays marked out throughout our rehearsals. If we ever feel stuck, or tired, or blocked, we stick a song on and take to the court. If we ever feel unfocussed, or like we have energy to burn, we stick on a song and take to the court. It’s a great loosener, a great focusser, and a great energiser. It brings laughter, it bonds us, and most crucially, it forces us all to get better and better. Because as a game it exposes when you get sloppy, and it exposes when you’re not working hard.

The game in action
The game in action

We play a three player version. We have a normal Foursquare court (a big square divided into four smaller squares) with one of the lines removed. This bigger “square” (okay, okay, it’s a rectangle, but hey) is the Kingsquare. Whoever is playing on it is the top dog. In our version the other two are encouraged to work together to eliminate the player on the Kingsquare. They pass the ball between their squares, before one tries to bounce it in the Kingsquare such that the “King” can’t reach it. Whoever stays in the Kingsquare longest, wins.

We’ve found this is the three player version that works best because it encourages teamwork from everyone – as soon as you’re not on the Kingsquare, you’re in a team. It encourages refining techniques and shots – the Kingsquare defendant must come up with new ways of defeating the team, and new ways of covering as much of the square as the can. And crucially, it requires all of you to live in your body, and move, and respond, and be there, in the moment, in your body. Sometimes you won’t be, and then you’ll make mistakes. But as soon as you are, things start working. The game flows, rallies become ever longer and more intricate, the teamwork comes truly into play. You all enter into the flow. Into the world of the game.

And that’s when we know we’re ready to stop playing, and start the play.