The UK’s first improvisational comedy theatre, Hoopla have been established for 12 years with a dedicated venue near London Bridge. I caught the Saturday of their annual two-day improv festival, for a marathon performance from improv acts up and down the country, as well as taking in a 2-hour taster class on the fundamentals of improv.
The evening was compered by the wonderful Monica Gaga, who brought a genuinely infectious enthusiasm to the stage that worked the audience up more efficiently than pages of slick pre-prepared material ever could. The evening was then given over to a variety of acts. Every act brought something different and unique to the stage, in particular Jumprov from Birmingham, the UK’s first ethnically diverse improvisational theatre company, who played a round of improv games that had the crowd cackling – with a particular highlight being improvising a conversation using only the messages on an audience member’s phone. Later in the night we had side-splitting sketch comedy from The Committee, and the evening closed with a truly magical performance from The Dreamweaver Quartet, who used an audience member’s dream as a launchpad for creating a surrealist musical, complete with some of the most intricate and accomplished singing I’ve ever heard, improvised or not.
Earlier in the day, I took part in a taster/beginner improv class as part of a large group, under the playful supervision of instructor Liam Brennan. The class was eye-opening – dispelling some common myths about improv – it’s not about being funny, quick, or clever, for instance – and it’s easy to see how the techniques can work well with other aspects of life – indeed, improv workshops are popular in the corporate world as a way of teaching a freer way of thinking and communicating.
If you’re at all curious about learning or witnessing improv in action, Hoopla have created a perfect space for it. With a packed performance and class schedule, there is undoubtedly something for everybody who wants to dive headlong into this rewarding world.