Well that didn’t go as planned.
Obviously there have been lots of horrible things about the year. People have been ill, lost loved ones, lost jobs, had their businesses closed down and more. When we started the year we weren’t expected to actually be closed down for so much of it.
But in this blog I’m not going to talk about those things. You know about those things already, and I post about those things on twitter after a couple of drinks.
Instead what follows is a collection of some of my favourite improv highlights from the year, from the joyful windows of opportunity and inventive places where improv happened! Apologies for all the things or people not featured in this blog, this year feels like 5 years so I haven’t been able to fit everyone in.
January and February
Joyfully pre-Covid! It’s weird to think that back then I had no idea of what was coming. I don’t think it was until late February that I even heard about it in the news, I was too busy teaching and improvising.
So we actually started the year busier than we’ve ever been, with more shows and classes than ever before. “This looks set to be one successful year!” I said, whisky in a hand of naivety on 1st January.
What this year has made me realise, in a kind of enforced Stoic philosophy type way, is how amazing what we had was and how I will never take it for granted ever again.
Back then if the audience were 70 people instead of 75 I thought it was major disaster. If a course exercise didn’t go as planned I kicked myself. If we weren’t putting on improv at the Royal Albert Hall or something it didn’t feel enough. Now I realise, more than ever, that what we had (and will bring back) was already awesome all along in all its confusing chaotic joyful mess of humanity.
I’m looking back at our show schedule from back in January and it’s bonkers. We often had over 10 shows a night, with so many people hanging out for drinks afterwards. Was there ever a time before social distancing? It feels like a distant memory now or something I only see in old films on Netflix.
This year has made me appreciate Hoopla again from scratch. All of our teachers, all of our performers, all of our audience, all of our support team, all of our students, all of our venues, all of our friends.
I really hope that post-vaccine social distancing becomes a thing of the past and people can laugh together in one place.
Just the simplicity of Hoopla – have fun in a workshop, watch a show, have a drink afterwards with some new friends – is what I miss the most and now value more than ever.
Online improv wasn’t even a thing for us before March! Crazy isn’t it?
I had no idea what zoom was, barely ever used Skype and if I did I used to pretend my camera didn’t work. Then overnight online became the only option.
I remember the Hideout Theatre in Texas kick-starting things online, and then the Nursery, Maydays, Hoopla and within a week the entire global improv community was online. It was quite incredible!
A massive THANK YOU to everyone who has given online improv a go this year and a massive THANK YOU to all of our teachers for adapting so well and so quickly. And huge THANK YOU to Jessie Rutland for doing such an amazing job of coordinating more zoom meetings than the Brexit negotiations. Jessie has had to take on so much this year and it’s amazing what she’s achieved.
Even when Covid is totally over we will still be keeping regular online things running. It’s been amazing to have people from across the World coming together to improvise and socialise in the middle of all this. For example Rebecca from Abu Dhabi saying “I’ve just got to pop out for a bit, the army are at my front door to give me a covid test”.
Digital Native Improvisers!
Natalie Metcalf this one is for you! We had so many people actually start improv with us this year entirely online, and even go on to perform online and start their own things. The incredible thing is it really works, their improv is just as good as if they had learnt in real-life. Online demands heightened listening and awareness of the group.
Natalie not only started improv online but then went on to perform AND do our advanced courses with people who’ve been doing it for years AND even ran loads of our online socials. All while home-schooling her children in lockdown. Thank you Natalie and Happy Birthday!
This has been a massive highlight of the year – meeting people from around the UK and around the World that we wouldn’t usually get to meet.
These were epic! At the start of the 1st lockdown (which feels like years ago) there was this huge ENERGY where improvisers who were previously highly sociable and active were suddenly inside by themselves. It was like putting tigers in a fish tank.
I remember as if it was a dream about 100 people turning up online late at night to sing Bohemian Rhapsody together and then go without saying a word.
Lockdown’s Got Talent!
Massive THANK YOU to all the groups that performed online over the lockdown! And big THANK YOU to Angela Pollard and Joe Cazalet-Smith for making this happen. There was an especially incredible night hosted by Monica Gaga featuring a selection of different acts and when it felt like the world was falling apart it was so beautiful to see our host talking to people again and people making fun things happen!
This was SO MUCH FUN!
Was the summer real? I hope so, but even if it wasn’t I’m glad I have the memory.
We put on a series of workshops outside in parks across London over the summer months and it was so beautiful. I remember having a mini blub just from talking to someone in real life again. We improvised scenes among trees using the landscape as inspiration. It was safe, fun and I feel like some of the most amazing scenes happened then. I remember Carly Brazier entering the stage from 200m away across Victoria Park and people falling about laughing before she had even made it to the audience.
I didn’t even care when I accidentally swallowed a wasp while drinking a can of lemon Sanpellegrino.
Also in the summer we managed to film a couple of socially-distanced sketches which was awesome fun. My only regret of the year is not doing more of these!
We do this every August. We like to make improvements year on year and we decided this year would be no exception. New lights. New sound. New paint. New tables. New spotlight. New everything. We’re determined to not just come back but to come back better than ever.
Many thanks to the building team Jon Monkhouse, Jessie Rutland, Angela Pollard and Joe Cazalet-Smith!
The whole London improv scene seemed to communicate during the Black Lives Matter movement and listen to what people had to say and learn how to improve. I’m very thankful to everyone who filled in our survey at this time and spoke to us directly, and I’m also very thankful to Monica Gaga for advising us behind the scenes. I’m really proud to have been born and raised in London and also proud to be part of an improv scene that is representing London and eager to constantly improve.
Shows back for a bit!
YEAH! We went for it! When theatres were allowed to open again we read through ALL the health and safety guidelines. We trained our staff. We invested in new equipment. We reduced to audiences from 75+ to just 16. And we PUT ON SHOWS!
I loved these shows so much. The experience was actually better than ever. Table seated, clear views to the stage, drinks delivered to your table from an app. Luxury.
The first show I saw was Do the Right Scene and it was fucking hilarious and the spirit of the performers after being in lockdown for so long was life itself.
We had track and trace running on our online tickets, and in the pub, and on the pub app and…….nobody caught Covid in our shows! Not only in shows, but nobody caught Covid in the pub either.
Shows closed down again with Lockdown 2, but I’m really glad we put some on while we could. We obviously didn’t know Lockdown 2 was coming when we planned everything.
Massive THANK YOU again to Angela Pollard for being so amazing at adapting this year and booking things in and not losing hope when things had to be cancelled again. And massive THANK YOU to Joe Cazalet-Smith for managing the venue so well, and THANK YOU to the Miller team, THANK YOU to Bob Stafford for photographing this season, and THANK YOU to all of our performers and audience for coming back!
Real-life classes back for a bit!
We also managed to bring real-life classes back for a bit in the Autumn before lockdown 2!
We read pages of health and safety guidelines and even created some of our own (smell test anyone?). I’m really proud of what we did. We trained teachers and the teachers were so amazing at adapting to teaching improv with social distancing in place and keeping it fun. It was such an amazing experience after being in lockdown for so long. Games that I previously took for granted felt like eating the finest food of the imagination!
Thank you to our teachers and improvisers for coming back and making this work, it means the world to us. And thank again to Jessie for coordinating so much!
And….even with track and trace on both our tickets AND at the venues we didn’t have any instances of anyone catching Covid in classes. In fact Theatre Delicatessen didn’t have any instances across it’s whole venue, and that’s 100s of people per week. Thank you to the hard work of the venue teams for making so many successful changes.
Shows back for a little bit more!
Hurrah London is only in Tier 2 let’s open shows again! Yeah they are back! Oh.
I’m so grateful for our team for being with me over this year. They are amazing and have adapted to rapidly changing circumstances. Angela programmed 100s of shows only to see them be cancelled, only to start again and make even more amazing things happen. Joe has created a safe theatre where people can have fun. Max made me laugh when I needed it most, and kicked me in the butt when I need it most. Jon built a brand new theatre. Jessie moved an entire improv school online and only put tea bags in the fridge once. Kate set up an amazing series of ongoing corporate training work that brings the Hoopla fun to the workplace. Our teachers adapted to teaching online, then to outside in parks, then to inside socially distanced, then back to online. Our performers adapted to doing shows online over zoom, then socially distanced with small audiences, then back to online. And our students and improvisers you’re amazing – it’s an honour to sit in my little zoom corner and laugh along with you.
Improv matters to me. More than ever. All of it. The big hit West End shows. The little shows to 4 people in a pub. The workshops. The socials. The festivals. The parties. The people walking on stage for the first time. The audience. The pre-parties. The Marathons. All of it.
Improv is coming back, because it never even stopped.
Happy New Year Everyone!