This blog isn’t going to talk about politics or dead celebrities. Not that those things haven’t been sad this year, it’s just that this is an impro blog and I’m an impro savant. Weirdly 2016 has actually been a really good year for improv, which means I have turned into this idiot in a daily mash article.
So here’s a selection of some of my personal improv highlights of 2016:
Introducing lots of beginners to improv
I love running our beginners courses and I love seeing people improvise on stage for the first time. Seeing people go from totally new to anything on stage to then improvising in front of a live audience is quite a thrill to us teachers as well as them.
This Hoopla wouldn’t exist at all without the great relationships we have with The Nursery, The Miller, The Maydays, The Poor School, The Charles Dickens School, C3Something, Duck Duck Goose, Theatre Delicatessen, St Mungo’s, The Horse all of our performing groups, all of our teachers and many many more. In fact just attempting to write that list made me realise that there are easily 100 other groups/charities/organisations that we rely on and couldn’t exist without.
In 2016 I really realised the huge value in partnering with other groups and organisations as it enables us to do so much more than we could by ourselves.
Again over Christmas I’ve realised how lucky we are to have so many great performing groups working with us. Do Not Adjust Your Stage, Glitch, Guest Speaker, Geekeasy, The Playground, Music Box, RH Experience, TSOLT, GTI, C3Something, Maydays, Giggle Loop and Story Kitchen are just of the regularly performing groups and there are almost a 100 more who come and perform too.
Plus it’s been really exciting to see so many new groups form at Launch Pads and other nights, and we’re keen to support them ongoing.
Also the influence of Free Association and Monkey Toast has been really postive on us and the wider improv scence.
Front of House Volunteers
This has been a huge change for the better this year. I put a bit of a cry for help up on facebook and twitter as we needed more help with shows and things. I was expected about 10 volunteers but instead got 100. The enthusiasm and support of these volunteers has meant that we’ve been able to put on more shows than ever, and are increasing our shows to 4 nights a week next year and then gradually increasing over next year to a full time venue.
I really mean it, without the great volunteers we have we wouldn’t be doing so many shows, so thank you very much it genuinely wouldn’t happen without you.
If you fancy helping out at shows by the way there’s some info here.
I’m so excited about our filming team!!!! We’ve got a lovely team built up now and have done some training, so are ready to go with filming improv and sketches and semi-improvised sketches next year. I’m really excited about this. We’ve been tipping our toes into the filming world the last year but we’re ready to jump in naked next year. We’re just doing it for fun so please let me know if you’d like to be involved somehow.
End of course shows
Well done to everyone who performed improv for the first time this year, I really enjoyed every single end of course show. it’s such a roller coaster of a journey and it’s always amazing to see. I love watching people perform improv or a new form for the first time, when they are genuinely surprised at what they are saying moment by moment.
Big New Year shout to the Hoopla teaching team!!!!!!!!! I’m really lucky to have such a great team who are so passionate about supporting people into doing impro for the first time. I’m really lucky as I get to co-teach with Edgar who cracks me up and stops me taking anything too seriously. Plus whenever I’ve an impro problem I phone any of them up and chat and they not only fix my impro problem but my whole brain, thank you!
The Maydays Christmas Party
This was one of my favourite shows of the year. They do such a good job of bringing together a community of improvisers, and I’ve never seen a jam work so well in my life. Scene after scene was a hit and there is such a warm lovely vibe around everything they do. Also it was great to see people I knew as a beginners totally rock it on stage – Jessie and Iain I’m talking about you!
Being in Story Kitchen is like stapling ones scrotum (or alternative) to an airplane and then seeing where it takes you. I mean that in a good way! Just when life settles down or becomes “normal” I find there is a monthly Story Kitchen show around the corner and before I know it I’m singing an opera while eating a cucumber. Faye is doing a great job of directing a box full of frogs that have inhaled jumping gas.
Oh my gosh I loved this so much! Our last Narrative Long-Form Course of the year was Panto themed even though many of the cast, and many of the audience, had never seen a Panto. And it bloody worked!!! Ha!
I really like this course as it combines all my favourite things into one thing: commedia dell’arte, narrative, characters, archetypes, love, death, villains, action, adventure and loads more.
I love the London improv scene as it feels like everything from around the world, and history, is melting together to make some really great stuff. Game of the scene mixes with Narrative, Chicago improv mixes with Italian Commedia dell’Arte, theatre mixes with comedy.
I really enjoyed every single Music Box show I saw this year and think they’ve really clicked as a group. The singing sounds beautiful, great use of genres and a nice balance between story, fun, character, relationships and love.
If I was to put money on just one breakthrough group in 2017 it would be Music Box.
The Showstoppers, The Mischief Theatre, Austentatious
It’s been great to see The Showstoppers, The Mischief Theatre and Austentatious have such great mainstream success this year.
The Mischief Theatre used to be The Scat Pack improv group, before producing comedies like The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. This year they’ve had three plays on the West End, won an Olivier Award, transferred to Broadway and got a BBC One TV show and radio show. Phew! I hope they’ve had a decent rest at Christmas.
What I’ve loved about seeing the success of them and Showstoppers and Austentatious is that it is the most well deserved thing I’ve ever seen. They are all some of the most hardworking improvisers out there and it’s their dedication to making improv and comedy an art that has lead to their success.
At the Edinburgh Fringe The Scat Pack (later The Mischief) were performing about three shows a day, flyering all the time, guest appearing in other shows, doing all the press they could and basically working hard non-stop. And to top it all they were always really friendly and professional too.
It’s amazing to see it all pay off for them, and they’ve inspired many others including to me to work hard
Hoopla Plans for 2017:
- To run lots of fun impro courses, especially for beginners and people new or newish to improv, and make those courses as fun and supportive as possible.
- To improve diversity in the improv scene and help make improv open to all, in collaboration with other groups (more about that at in our diversity policy)
- To increase our shows to four evenings a week from the second week of January (details on website soon). Wednesdays will be for newer groups or groups trying out new things, Thursday – Saturday will be a selection of the finest groups around.
- Working with groups to keep raising the standard of improv as high as possible to open up a wider audience.
- To film lots of improv, sketches and semi-improvised sketches for fun and experience.
Thanks again to everyone who has been involved in making this year great for improv, we really appreciate it and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Improv. Improv workshops, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK.