Here’s a handy guide for Hoopla performers about safety measures and legal requirements in place during physically-distanced times. We’ve made this post public so other improvisers and groups can also use it if they find it helpful.
This guide is based on the following:
We also recommend groups do their own research to be on the safe side and complete their own risk assessment.
The overall aim is to make sure Hoopla’s shows are safe while still being fun, friendly and playful!
We’re aiming to not only keep improv fun while physical distancing is still in place, but to make it more fun than it ever was before!
We’re improvisers, we can adapt, and there is no reason why safety and fun have to be mutually exclusive. We believe it’s possible to still emotionally and playfully connect at a distance and in fact that could be one of improv’s major new purposes after lockdown!
Please don’t come if you have symptoms
The safest theatre is one where there isn’t anyone with Covid there in the first place.
Therefore please remember to not come to the show if you have any of these symptoms:
- High temperature or fever.
- A new, continuous cough.
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Any doubts, please don’t come! There will be other shows!
If you start to feel ill during the show it’s also ok to just leave mid-show.
To help this we will also be doing at-a-distance temperature checks and asking you about symptoms on on arrival.
Things to do on arrival
- Use hand sanitiser on the front door.
- Go upstairs to the venue and say hello to the Front of House manager.
- Front of House will do a symptom check and at-a-distance temperature check with you.
- Front of House will guide your team through the physical spacing in place and other safety measures.
- Rehearse your on and off stage positions, physical distancing, and also route to enter stage before audience arrive.
- Please don’t enter the upstairs venue and start rehearsing without talking to the front of house manager first.
Distancing on stage
Government advice is 1 metre +. This means 2 metre distancing where possible but if not possible 1 metre distancing with extra (+) precautions and for only a short time.
If you are breaking the 1m+ rule (as professional film and TV does) you would have to be taking a lot of extra precautions like testing in advance of the show, living together in a bubble before show, and perhaps wearing masks during performance.
So overall we recommend sticking to 2m where possible with occasional 1m+.
Distancing is especially important when scenes are face-to-face or when singing.
We know this is going to feel weird at first for shows, but remember it’s not forever and everyone is doing it in real-life so your show does reflect real-life while doing this!
To help this we’ve decluttered the entire venue to maximise on-stage and off-stage space.
We’ve also put together some guidelines on how performing can still be fun with physical distancing in place:
Improv at a distance is still fun.
The exception to all this is if cast members live together or are in a bubble, you then wouldn’t have to distance on stage. If that’s the case it may be worth mentioning that to the audience before you start so it doesn’t look reckless!
Reduced numbers of people in show
We recommend keeping your group size below six for now.
Comedy clubs and theatres are actually exempt from the rule of 6 as long as audience aren’t booked or seated in groups of six or more, and the limit on gatherings also does not apply to professionals taking place in performing arts activity. However we personally advise that there are only 6 people or fewer per group to be on the safe side.
If your group is more than 6 people we recommend instead splitting the group in two and performing as two separate teams (known as working groups in DCMS guidelines) over your time slot without interaction between each group. The exception to this in our particular venue could be a group of 6 plus an additional off-stage musician, as the musician tends to be seated off stage in a different area.
Improvisers shouldn’t perform in more than one group per night, so no guest playing from one group on another.
Reduced numbers of people on stage
For our venue 4 is probably the maximum number people that should be on the actual stage for a scene or game, with any others off stage, but feel free to practice when you arrive and see what works with distancing for your show.
We advise most games and scenes to be 1-3 people to be on the safe side and make distancing easier, instead of whole group games and scenes.
Off stage positioning during show
We’ve done a massive tidy in the venue, and there are a lot less audience seats too, so there is more off stage space for you to stands in-between scenes so you can keep a safe physical distance.
Please be aware of audience as well as other cast members when off-stage.
Audience interaction and distancing
It’s totally OK to chat to the audience and get suggestions like before, but we can’t get audience volunteers on stage at the moment. We should also minimise chanting, shouting and singing along as per DCMS guidelines.
Please also keep distance from audience when performing, off-stage and waiting to go on.
Performance on stage only
The audience seating is arranged to keep physical distancing in place between audience and between audience and performers, so at the moment we can only perform on stage and shouldn’t take scenes off stage and into or behind the audience.
The only exception to this are musicians who we may place off-stage.
Stage entry and exit
We’ve left much larger space than before around the stage and a clear route around the audience, please check and practice on arrival. Please ask our Front of House manager if you are not sure.
Waiting to go on
We have factored in cast members into our physical spacing with the audience, so on most nights it will be possible to sit in the audience area if your group on later in the evening.
Please don’t crowd the back of the venue and please respect the audience distancing.
Warm up and pre-show rehearsal
Before the audience arrive it will be possible to warm up on the stage. Once the doors are opening please stop warm up and please don’t ask for extra time, as our Front of House managers already have a lot to do with people arriving.
It is no longer possible to warm up in the cupboard room at the back as it is so small. If warming up outside or in park please be respectful of neighbours and keep the noise levels down.
Little green cupboard room
The end of an era!
We know this was a popular feature of Hoopla and the little green cupboard proudly hosted warm ups with Josie Lawrence, Paul Merton, Mike McShane and more! But unfortunately this is now out of operation and will only be used as a storeroom. So please no warming up or more than one person changing in there, and only get changed in there if you absolutely have to.
This is allowed again.
Additional mitigations, such as extended social distancing, were previously required for singing, wind and brass given concerns that these were potentially higher risk activities. DCMS commissioned further scientific studies to be carried out to develop the scientific evidence on these activities, which allowed them to reconsider appropriate mitigations. Both professionals and non-professionals can now engage in singing, wind and brass in line with the general DCMS Performing Arts guidelines.
From the DCMS performing arts guidelines it now appears singing guidelines are now the same as the rest of the performing arts guidelines, but please correct us if we are wrong on this!
Edits and tags
Sweep edits should still work but tags could be replaced by an audible tag instead, for instance “we cut to the bar tender on holiday in Ibiza”.
There are hand sanitisers and washing facilities throughout the pub, please use on arrival and before and after shows. If anything is faulty please let one of the bar staff know and it will be immediately replaced.
Box office area
Please don’t wait around the box office area as audience are arriving. We need to keep the space clear so people can come in and out smoothly.
We are running at vastly reduced capacity and running shows at a financial loss. Our front of house managers will already be working hard with cleaning and managing audience spacing. We don’t have the resources at the moment to accept complicated tech requests. So lighting will be provided but please no technical cues unless you are bringing your own experienced tech to help out.
Props, costumes, bags
We need to keep everything super tidy and clean. So there will be no storage for things anymore and everything for your show should be taken away at the end of the night. Anything left in the venue will be recycled at the end of the night with no exceptions.
We’ll be cleaning the venue before and after each show, including all surfaces, but please clean any props or anything else you bring for your show.
After show socialising
After the show and in the pub the rule of six still legally applies to performers and audience and we can’t make exceptions to performers.
So it will be seated in groups of up to 6 after the show.
Please remember this is a legal thing at the moment, not just a guideline.
Yes it will feel odd to not have a drink with everyone you were sharing a show with, but these times won’t last forever!
Performers are exempt from wearing face coverings in rehearsals and shows; they must, however be worn at all other points whilst in a venue.
The pub rules (and legal rules) are that masks should be worn when moving around the pub except when seated at a table eating or drinking. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking.