Tell Me is a game created by Chris Thorpe & Yusra Warsama as part of Homemakers, a series of new commissions, where HOME invited artists to create work at home, for an audience who are also at home.
No one needs to be reminded that our relationships to each other have changed in these past few months, and that the ways we find emotional intimacy have changed too. Whilst the format of a game might feel strange at first, ‘Tell Me’ echoes the games that guide us through other periods of social uncertainty: ‘Truth or Dare’ at a primary school sleepover, ‘Never Have I Ever’ on your first night in halls. ‘Tell Me’ offers players the same space to learn more about each other, and to celebrate the familiarity they already share. Any test of friendship runs the risk of disappointment, but by framing ‘Tell Me’ as performance art, players are invited to observe their own emotions rather than becoming overwhelmed by them, and to see themselves as their loved ones see them.
‘Tell Me’ provides players with a list of questions to choose from, from “City or United?” to “Is there a God, and how do you feel about that?” (arguably equally important). Players write the answers in character as each other, before swapping papers to read out the answers written for them. Playing with a close friend allows you both to enjoy doing your best written impression of them, and, for more serious questions, to really empathize with the emotion behind what they do or say.
When Ruth and I moved into the same house in September, we became fast friends. Months on, and mid-quarantine, we often sit outside in the twilight and have discussions about death or fear or burgers or TV, so ‘Tell me’ felt like a more structured version of what we already do.
We used the questions provided in the pamphlet (why waste someone else’s hard work?) and I was surprised looking through them by the tonal shifts. ‘Tell me’ allows you to ask ‘what is your least favourite sport?’ and then ‘how do you feel about death?’ one after another. I liked that a lot because it reminded me that this is, first and foremost, a game. A fun thing.
But as we got to question three and my focus drifted from my pad to hers, I felt a little bit of anxiety. The exposition of the game is right. We hide part of ourselves, and as we wrote our answers, I became aware that maybe she was finding the bits I had hidden away. But then, I began to understand the reciprocal nature of the exercise. In playing, we allow our identities to be probed by the people we trust to prove we trust them, and in turn, to prove that we can be trusted.
Like I said, Ruth and I know each other well, but I was still surprised by just how accurate our answers were. The concept of me written in her voice but spoken in mine is inherently funny so the reading out of answers was a good time. And the answers led to questions, about how she saw the world and each other. So, I did learn about her, and she did learn about me.
Because we were audienceless I can’t speak to how this game works on stage, but between two friends in a garden with beer on hand, it’s a nice way to spend some time. It also might be interesting to play in relationships that fall easily into routines: with a parent and child, or siblings, for instance. By inviting a loved one to play ‘Tell Me’, you invite them to share an honest reflection on your relationship, and, if you’re lucky, a closer bond in this time of distance.
Find out more about Tell Me and how you can play.