Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Phil Lunn's top Musical Improv games and why?

Hoopla teacher Phil Lunn shares his favourite games for musical improviers and how they are helpful. 

1. Diddly dum.
The phrase is “Diddly dum diddly dum diddly diddly diddly dum”, and we pass it around the circle, one person saying a word at a time. Once that’s sorted, we walk around the room and pass to the next person with our eyes. For added variation, each time we start the pattern, we build a new one e.g. “fiddly dee fiddly dee fiddly fiddly fiddly dee

This is a great exercise for calming down, focusing, getting in to a rhythm, and practising passing and receiving. I particularly like the fact that it’s not a game where we’re continually on the edge of failure, like a lot of warm-up exercises. It’s eminently doable if we focus, and very quickly, we do.

2. Pass an arpeggio around the circle.
An arpeggio can also be called a ‘broken chord’, and it’s where we sing the notes of a chord sequentially, rather than all together. Think of the piano underneath “Unchained Melody”, “Everybody Hurts”, or “Walking in Memphis”. It’s hard to describe in writing! The first four notes of “I Could Have Danced… all night” are an arpeggio of a major chord.

We stand in a circle and together sing an major arpeggio up the octave and down the octave, all together, with “ah”s. We then pass it around the circle, one note at a time. Every time we complete the pattern, we do it all together once, before starting again with the next person.

This is quite challenging, and unless everyone has a great musical ear then it will take a long time to do it correctly (and that may never happen). Regardless of how much success we achieve, it’s an excellent way to really, really, really, focus on what we’re hearing from our partners.

3. What’s Going On?
This is an exercise I developed during a lovely afternoon being shown around Stockholm with my improviser friend Kerstin Höglund. It’s loosely based on the song “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blondes, which is better known by the yelled tagline “What’s Going On?”.

Again we stand in a circle. Someone chooses a location, for example “vampire castle”. Each person in turn sings a rhyming couplet that describes the environment that fits the melody, e.g.:
    There’s a statue before me dripping with blood
    Don’t know what it means but it can’t be good

And the whole group sings:

I said hey—what’s going on?

And we continue around the circle.

What I like about this is that as well as practising setting up rhymes (which there’s loads of exercises for), this really tests our skill to follow a rhythm. The lines are quite long, and with quite rigid timing if you do it well. Improvising within rhythm is a hugely important skill, more important than rhyming.

4. Circle Adjustment
This isn’t an exercise but because I’ve talked a lot about standing in circles, I feel a need to share this gem that I learnt from Aden and Eric Nepom. If you’re standing in a circle and the circle is a bit misshapen, don’t despair. It’s happened to all of us. Everyone takes three steps clockwise, then anti-clockwise. Tada! A better circle. I think I know why this works, but explaining it would take away the magic.

5. Plak!
A non-musical exercise. This is best played with a small group (6 max). We stand close together. Our aim is to come up with a slogan that you might see on a fridge magnet or car window sticker. One person says a word: for example, “Badgers”. Anyone can go next: “please”. And then anyone again: “apologise”. If you think we’ve completed our slogan (which clearly, we have, because badgers clearly need to apologise), then we push our palms into the circle and say “Plak!”. Hopefully, we all say “Plak!” together because we’re all building the same group mind. And then we create more slogans.

This is a great exercise for getting out of your head with your own ideas and joining in with the group instead. I learnt it from Emma Wessleus who used to live in the Netherlands, and “Plak” is Dutch for “stick” (as in sticking a car sticker to a car). Even in the UK, I prefer to say “plak!” as it’s a good word.


Phil's next musical improv courses start in September.  Phil travels to lots of improv festivals around the world to perform and teach.  He regularly perfroms at Hoopla Impro with his show Phil Lunn is...  

Friday, 6 July 2018

Character Course with Susan Harrison - What to expect and her favourite exercises.

Caught up with Susan Harrison to find out about her Character Course at Hoopla.

Hi Susan, what can people expect to be doing on your course? 

The character course is a fun and energetic opportunity to improvise numerous characters and to explore the various routes in to characterisation. Students will be on their feet a lot, improvising, having fun with different characters and being pushed as far away from being themselves as possible! 

What are your favourite character exercises? 

1) Royal Status Game. This is a Keith Johnstone classic in which a high-status king/queen is alone on stage and servants come and tend to him/her. If they annoy the Royal person in any way, he/she clicks their fingers and the servant dies. I love this exercise because it forces people to play boldly. Often people think they are playing low status but you can always go lower! And the same can be said of a high-status character. Also, this game encourages making a choice rather than being polite and importantly it’s very, very funny to watch. 

2) Hot-seating. I love hot-seating characters. Whatever the inspiration of the character, it’s fun to try and draw them out of the improviser through an interview. It’s great practice for the performer to stay in character for a sustained amount of time and it’s a great one for spontaneity. 

3) Peas in a Pod. There are numerous variations of this but essentially the improvisers are all playing versions of the same person. I LOVE this exercise because when it goes well it proves the power of agreement. It’s especially great for beginners who may be tempted to go for conflict as a default, as it demonstrates how funny a scene can be when there is no conflict present. Also, it’s great for observing each other. Often on stage, we think we’re listening or we think we are observing but you can always listen and look more closely. 

Susan's next courses at Hoopla are starting in September.   Susan performs regularly on the Hoopla stage with BEINGS, The Playground, The Actor's Nightmare and her EdFringe show 'Susan Harrison Is A Bit Weepy'.   She is also part of the Olivier award-winning Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, performing on the West End and their international tours. 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Top 5 improv games for first time performers

Hoopla Teacher Liam Brennan shares his favourite games for first time performers and why they are good to play. 

1. Story Director

Story Director is a good shout for first-time performers as they can focus on the pure act of improvising. The performers simply have to listen to the ongoing story and take over when it’s their turn.

First off, you need the title of your story. I like getting an animal and a word from the audience and combining that into one title, such classics include ‘The Cat’s Pyjamas’ and ‘Giraffes and Ladders’.

Once you have your title, the performers stand in a horseshoe shape while one of them kneels in front of the others as the Story Director. When the Story Director points at a performer they tell the story and as soon as the Story Director points to another performer, they take over the telling of the story from where the last person left off.

At the end of each chapter, the Story Director swaps roles with one of the Story Tellers. At this stage, I like to get a suggestion from the audience as to what to add to the story in this chapter (genre, famous fictional character, an object) but do whatever feels most fun.

Tips for fun:
  • As Story Director, play around with how much you swap the story between players.
  • Sound effects are always welcome.
  • This story is unlikely to be published, having fun is considerably more important than having a ‘good’ story. However, if it does get published, send me the Amazon link and I will buy 10 copies.

2. Columns

I’ve loved playing this game ever since I learned improv was a thing as I always had so much fun playing it. It’s a great chance to work with playing with the big offers presented by the columns who join the performers on stage.

Have two performers in the middle of the stage (or rehearsal room, living room, park, shopping centre, foyer of the Barbican or anything else, hereinafter called “the stage). Have two extra performers playing the columns, one on each side of the stage. Get a suggestion from your audience to inspire a scene for the two performers and you're ready to play.

As the two performers play the scene, at any point they can tap either one of the columns who will give them a word or two to fill in a blank left in their sentence.

Ted: Gee Maude, I sure hope that you like my… (taps column)
Column 1: Face!
Ted: Face. I’ve been to the plastic surgeon recently.
Maude: I noticed Ted, I really like what they added a… (taps column)
Column 2: Rhino Horn!
Maude: Rhino Horn to your face. It makes you look a lot tougher.

Ted and Maude did a great job here incorporating the columns’ suggestions and the columns’ did a great job just saying the first thing that popped into their minds. Go team! I think these guys are going to be just fine.

Tips for fun:
  • Columns can feel free to be as random or as obvious as they like. Everyone on stage will support and appreciate what they bring to the scene.
  • The performers can feel free to use either column at any time, it’ll also help you not get penned in by the improv obelisks.
  • Play around with different scene styles to see how it will impact the game. Try a mixture of high octane action and humdrum home scenes.

3. Complaint Letter

I’ve only recently learned this game and it’s so fun I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to play it at improv gigs (and while I’m there, I’d also tell my younger self to learn Mandarin so I could get a head start in communicating professionally in the largest market in the world). It’s similar to Story Director in that the performers only need to focus in on listening but it also adds in some fun additional elements.

Have two pairs of performers on stage. One pair will be writing a complaint letter and the other pair will be playing the complaints department of a real-life company (Google, Anne Summers, McDonald's, etc) which you will get from the audience.

The complaining pair will then write a complaint letter between the two of them, each player only being able to say one word before the other player also says one word. They alternate between each other saying one word each until they finish the letter.

After the complaining pair has finished, the complaints department will reply in the same way. Have the correspondence go back and forth a number of times.

Tips for fun:
  • Keeping the letters relatively short you can get to the exchange between the complainers and the complainees, which for some people is the best bit of the game.
  • If you’re the complainer, try playing ridiculously angry and see what happens.
  • If you’re the complainee, use the company you get as a suggestion to inspire a character. What might someone who works at Google, Anne Summers or McDonalds sound and act like?

4. Pan Left

Similarly to Columns, this is a game I’ve loved since I first started improvising. It’s a great game for first timer performers as they get to lots of short and fun scenes.

Four performers get into a square formation, two at the front and two at the back, all four facing towards the audience. A fifth player acts as the host and every so often will ask the players to “Pan Left”. When this happens, the players will take the position of the performer that is anti-clockwise to them, so everyone ends up in a different position. There will be four different pairings of front performers and all four pairings will get a different suggestion.

The front pair of players will perform their scene until told to “Pan Left” and then the next pairing will take over by performing their scene and this will continue until the end of the game.

When a scene returns, the performers keep the same characters but can feel free to take these characters to anywhere they want! It’s also fine to just continue the scene where they left off, it depends on what the performers will find most enjoyable.

Tips for fun:
  • As the host, feel free to play around with the length of the scenes. You may choose to let some scenes run for a while and others to run on only for a line.
  • As a performer, making big physical choices can be brilliant fun for when you return to a scene or if the scenes really short. For example: seeing two performers lie down for a beach scene to be immediately Pan Lefted can be amazingly funny.
  • Occasionally people end up in the wrong scene but mistakes don’t ruin the game they make them more fun! There’s no need to apologise if this happens and it might be more playful to stay in the scene and see what happens.

5. Freeze Tag

This game is particularly great for big groups of first time performers. It encourages spontaneity and just doing what feels fun in the moment. It has been scientifically proven that this game encourages more yoga scenes than any other improv game in history.

Two performers get on stage and strike a pose based on an audience suggestion. This could be trying to recreate a number with your body or a household chore but really it could be anything that inspires a pose. These two players then use their physicality to inspire a scene.

At any point, any of the offstage performers can yell “Freeze!” When this happens, the two performers onstage freeze on the spot holding their physicality in place. The person who yelled freeze then taps one of the performers on the shoulder and takes their place. The performer who was tapped on the shoulder goes offstage and then a new scene starts inspired by the performers’ physicalities.

Tips for fun:
  • Look for interesting and inspiring physicality when you shout freeze as it’s easier than trying to think of what a ‘good’ next scene might be. Then just use the other performers' interesting physicality to inspire a scene.
  • Lots of big physicality will not only make the scenes more fun and silly but will also inspire the offstage players.
  • Because there will probably be loads of players, feel free to do lots of multi-person scenes! If the number of players on stage is getting massive, when you yell “Freeze” feel free to tap a bunch of people on the shoulder, so that they leave the stage and you return to just two performers again for a while.

Remember, you can’t get any of these games wrong! If you change any of the rules you haven’t broken the game, you’ve actually invented a new one and you’re actually an improv super genius!

Liam teaches the Beginners, Performance and Long Form courses at Hoopla. Next courses starting in September.  He also performs on the Hoopla stage as part of improv troupes The Science of Living Things and Fright Club.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Hoopla teacher Rhiannon Vivian's Top Five Short Form Games for Beginners

Fun Short Form Games for Beginners

Oracle involves four people, set behind each other. One at the front sitting on the floor, one behind sat on a chair, the one behind that standing and the last one stood on a chair. That way we can see all their faces. Oracle is a brilliant low stakes word at a time short form game. The director simply takes big life questions from the audience, like 'Is there a God?' and 'Why are we here?' or 'Will England win the World Cup' and then asks the Oracle, who answers it a word at a time (per person). When Oracle is in action everyone's arms wave to the side. When Oracle is in silent contemplation everyone's hands are together in a kind of 'prayer' pose. It's funny, simple and daft. And being word at a time you can guess how wise oracle sounds. Sometimes very. Sometimes just plain ridiculous!

Pointing Story
Otherwise known as Storyteller Die. You can play this without the 'die' part for super beginners (cos let's face it, an audience yelling die at your first gig isn't the most positive experience!) About 5 people get up, stand in a line and tell a story between them, only speaking when the director is pointing at them. The title for the made up story is taken from the audience then it's up to the players to tell the story continuously, so even if someone is in the middle of a word and the director's finger points elsewhere, that next person should try and finish the half spoken word to make it seamless. Adding in different chapters with extra tasks for the players is also fun, like getting them to do Chapter 2 in a regional accent, or Chapter 3 in rhyming couplets, or Chapter 4 while dancing.

Twin Pillars
Easy! Two people are up playing a scene, with two audience members either side. The role of the audience members is simply to provide one word when tapped on the shoulder. While in the scene the players will conveniently 'forget' their words at intervals and then tap the audience (or the pillar) for a word to finish the sentence. The audience can say helpful words or if the word that pops into their head is weird or left-field that's part of the fun. The player then has to incorporate and justify this peculiar offer. A real example from some of my talented newbies recently was a scene set on a date. One of the players said, 'I don't kiss on a first date I...' then tapped the player playing the pillar who said, 'juggle!' So, I don't kiss on a first date, I juggle! I just love the new reality that gets created by one random word.

Word at a time expert
Three players stand next to each other shoulder to shoulder to play one entire person (or in this case an expert in something), who speaks one word at at time. Then another player plays the interviewer. All you need from the audience is something for someone to be an expert in (like rollerskating fish, or dancing plants) and you're away! The interviewer treats the game as if we've just zoned in on a TV channel all about that expertise and proceeds to interview our expert, who given that it's a word at a time answer, often makes sense in the funniest and weirdest of ways. Getting them to read an extract from their imaginary autobiography always goes down well.

Slideshow is perfect for players who just want to find their feet on stage. All it is, is players on the back line creating pictures or tableaus of holiday photos that two players in the front have to justify. Essentially it's like someone showing you their holiday snaps. Except the ones presenting have no idea what the back line will do. And vice versa. Both have to justify the offers each other make. So there are 3 or 4 players are on the back line and it's their task to just make tableaus that look like holiday photographs. Then two players at the front of the stage have to make sense of that tableau in relation to their fictional holiday. They can 'click' to a new photo by simple coming together on stage and pretending to use a slideshow clicker to move the image to the next one. It's tons of fun and really good for people who want to get up but not necessarily do much talking. And those presenting get a real fun time making sense of their team mates offers, and then creating scenarios right back at them to create.


Rhiannon regularly teaches for Hoopla and is part of The MaydaysDreamweaver Quartet & Bumper Blyton who all perform on the Hoopla stage at The Miller.  Next improv courses starting in September.

Monday, 25 June 2018

What warm-up games can improvisers do in a busy pub before their show?

You know the score. You're due on stage in about 20 minutes, but there's a show already going on the, cupboard at the back is full of people singing, and the bar downstairs is full. You and your team need a space to warm up, FAST! Bright idea, you go outside, oh no this is England, it's raining! Curses. 15 minutes left. Inside the pub is the only option but the managers don't want improv groups warming up in the pub and scaring away the regulars. 

There's only one thing for it.....

You need warm up games you can do in a pub that don't look like warm up games and don't get you thrown out of the pub.

Catchy title I know. 

And here they are:

Word at a time circle
Everyone sat in a circle at a table. Say a story around the circle one word at a time, as in first person says "One" next person says "day" next person "there" etc. This is a great game for focusing the group together and getting them listening to each other. Plus when done sat down at a table it looks like you are playing a drinking game, win!

Week in detail
Split up into pairs. Each tells the other person their whole week but in immense detail. Did you have to take the plastic wrap off the top off your listerine mouthwash on Tuesday morning? Tell them. Then after a couple of minutes the other person repeats back everything they said in the order they said it. Gets people opening up about themselves and sharing, and also gets people listening. Plus it looks like people in a pub just having a conversation, which is what people do in pubs anyway - or at least they used to before smart phones and facebook. Win!

Characters at the bar
Start outside the bar area. Then when you go in you go into the bar area in character and have a chat with other members of the cast who are also in character. It should look and feel totally believable so the regular pub drinkers think you're just a couple of office colleagues catching up, or off duty policemen talking about a thief they caught. It shouldn't look weird or whacky. Win!

Walk around the building
Whatever venue you perform in I've found a great pre-stage thing to do is for the cast to leave the venue and walk around it (even if that means a whole block) and then re-come in the front door and up into the show. Moving gets people out of thinking. And it feels weirdly rebellious to walk out of the building you are about to perform in. There's also the Elvis effect of walking towards the stage from a distance and the gods of improv are activated in our souls. Win!

Unlocking Joints and Making Eye Contact
If you're sat at the back of the room waiting to go but there is a group on and you can't make any noise or leave then there are still things you can do. I've found it helpful to go through my body joint by joint from feet up and just say to them in my head "relax relax relax" and gradually let the body relax and lengthen. Joints become unlocked, arms become uncrossed, the chest opens, the eyes open and energy flows. While doing this I also like to try and make eye contact with other cast members, as it means you all connect before you go on stage. Little waves, thumbs up, gestures. Anything to keep people connected before you go up. 

Coming from the audience
I've found it helpful to sit with the audience before going on, rather than just stomping in out of nowhere. It means we can feel their energy, see what they are seeing, and pick up how the room is. It means we come on stage from the audience for the audience rather than performing at the audience. 

Mind Games
There are also various things we can do to get ourselves in a positive mindset. Different things work for different people. I like to remind myself that we're very lucky to be on stage and do this fun thing, and am grateful that other people want to do this fun thing with me, that we don't get to be here forever but I'm very grateful that we are here now and doing this. 

I also heard a funny clown mind game recently about how the clown sees they audience. The clown walks into the back of an empty room and sees lots of people sitting in rows all staring at a blank wall and stage with nothing going on. What a shame, thinks the clown, I better go on and see what's happening and see if I can cheer them up.

Hope that helps! 



Hoopla runs shows at The Miller every Wednesday to Saturday and also run a varity improv courses, visit to find out more. 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Top Five Beginners exercises from Hoopla teacher James Witt.

James Witt shares his favourite exercises from his beginners improv course and how they help his students. 

Shared Holiday 
Talking about a shared holiday in pairs and starting every new sentence with ‘Yes And’.    This really gets the players on the same page in a fun and inventive low-pressure way.    I find it a good bonding exercise too and often my students have big smiles on their faces conjuring up these false memories.   

Written Lines 
I usually get my Beginners students to play this in the second week of their course.   I get them all to write three random quotes from film / tv / historical speech / literature.   They then do scenes in pairs and pull these out at random points.   I make sure they focus on the meaning and content of each line for at least 30 seconds before moving on.    I feel that it’s quite a challenging exercise early on, the curve balls you get given in this game are huge, but it teaches acceptance and super yes-anding.   The audience always loves it so it’s very rewarding too.    

I get my students to line up in Rolodex formation and do short scenes with varying restrictions.    
First of all, we play “Who, Where, What” three line scenes.    If the players fail to name both characters in the scene then the other players in the Rolodex sing “Say My Name Say My Name”. 
This is to drill the importance of giving each other names early in every scene.   But played with a sense of fun. 

In the next round, we play “No Questions” whenever the awaiting players hear a question in a scene they sing “Question” in the style of the lyric in the Destiny’s Child song “Independent Women”.       Once three Questions have been asked the scene is over.   The Rolodex then sing “Let us see your Halo, Halo”  or if the players make it through a three-minute scene without asking more than two questions the Rolodex sings “You’re a Survivor”.    I feel it’s important to drill no questions really early on in a beginners course because once players start making statements and not asking questions then their scenes really take off.   I find it also means that fewer scenes become confrontational and more flow more naturally.   I find that often when asking lots of questions in a scene its because we are looking to our scene partner to guide the scene when it should be a collaborative journey.     It also applies a lot of pressure on your scene partner.    
The final rounds of Beyoncé feature “no negative words” such as No, Don’t, Can’t, Won’t, Not, Shouldn’t and Couldn’t.    When we hear any of these we sing the debut Destiny’s Child song “No, No, No, No, No” and the final rule is no “Meh Words” this includes any non commital words such as “But, Maybe, Perhaps, Possibly etc..” and we sing the “uh oh oh uh oh oh oh” bit from “All the Single Ladies” if we hear any of these non-committal words.    Three in a scene and the players move to the back of the Rolodex.     These type of “meh” words are often defence mechanisms from the players scared to latch onto certain themes and story arcs in case they’re “not good enough”, but I try and drill that every idea should be embraced.

We then impose all of these rules on the final round of scenes.   Which turns into a mini Beyoncé concert.   

Character Study
In most of my courses, I will get my students to observe a person in the wild.    I ask them to observe a random stranger, who is significantly different to them.   Can be age / gender / physical build.    I ask them to imagine a backstory for that person.   I then guide them in a meditative type visualisation exercise.   They close their eyes and imagine they are the person they studied at home looking in the mirror.   I ask them to get ready for work, make breakfast and walk to work in character.    I get them to focus on both the inner and outer life on the character.   Their physicality and voice.  I then hot seat them by asking a range of questions about their hopes, dreams, fears, family, friends, hobbies, relationships etc..   I feel this Stanislavskian approach to initial character development helps bring depth across all future ones too.   

Genre Cauldron
The first thing I do before working on Genre with my students is to get them into small groups and visualise a cauldron in front of them.    I then call out a genre of play / tv / film and they imagine they’re throwing tropes from that style into a giant cauldron. 
For example if I say “Horror Movie” they could throw into the cauldron ‘Jump scares, high school jock, Phone disconnected / no coverage, red herring suspects, abandoned place, revenge, shadows, lights cutting out, tension music, blood and gore etc...’.    This really gets their neural pathways working in the right way for genre-based games such as Storyteller Die, Pan Left, Film Show and Genre Rollercoaster.   This also helps people who are more unfamiliar with certain styles and gets them thinking about the cliches of certain genres which is where much of the comedy comes from in those games. 


James regularly teaches at Hoopla, his next course starts in September. You can also see him in improv action on the Hoopla stage as part of Dreamweaver Quartet.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Hoopla teacher Rory Vieyra share his favourite warmup games.

Here are Hoopla teacher Rory Vieyra's favourite improv warm-up games and what they help with. 

Everyone stands in a circle and someone says something. It can be a movie quote, song lyric or something from real life. The next person in the circle observes the person saying the quote and then mimics exactly what they saw to the next person in circle. Over time it will change and get weird. They key is to copy the person next to you and not anyone previous.

Good for being silly, listening and getting physical.

Mind Meld
The goal is for two people to say things together until they reach the same word. It begins by one person saying "one," the second person saying "two," and then both people counting to three together. They then say anything at all - a person, place, idea, concept, phrase: anything. Then we think what the thing between those two things or associated with those two things would be. We repeat the one, two, three and try to use the two previously stated things to arrive at a third, common one. You free associate together, attempting to reach the same word, then everyone shouts Mind Meld and does a dance.

Good for forming a group mind, listening and building on others ideas.

Two Penises
Is a fun game where everyone in a circle starts chants 'Two Penises, two penises, what would you do with 2 penises?' The first person says 'The first one i would XYZ.' then the next person tries to rhyme with the final bit of the previous statement with the second penis 'The second one I would XYZ.'

E.G. 'The first one I would throw in the fire, The second one I would give to a liar.'

Then everyone chants 'Two Penises, two penises, what would you do with 2 penises?' together before repeating the game with the next people until you get bored or everyone has had a turn.

It's good for being silly, listening to the other person and embracing the failure.

8 Things
Can be done in pairs or as a group. Someone jumps into the circle and then someone on the outside says '8 Types of X.' It can be anything Dogs, Cheese, space pirates it doesn't matter. Then the person in the centre lists 8 things in the category while the people on the outside count them off.

Good for getting your mind in the zone, positivity and support

I'm a whisk
The players stand on the stage/around the room. Player A goes to the middle, strikes a pose and says who or what they represent. For example, he lifts his arms over his head and says 'I am a tree.' A second player arrives, adds to the picture, and also says who or what he is. A third player enters the scene and completes the suggestions from A and B.

Now that the scene is finished, player A leaves the stage taking one of the other players with them. The other player stays on the stage and repeats their sentence (without changing their pose) As a result he offers a suggestion for a new scene.

This exercise can take place with any number of players.

Good for physicality, supporting and Yes And-ing


Rory regularly teaches at hoopla as well as performing.  You can see him in improv action in Music Box.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Hoopla teacher Rhiannon Vivian’s Top 5 Tips for Beginners & warm up games.

Rhiannon Vivian’s Top 5 Tips for Beginners

So I think the best advice has to come from your own experience. Despite having done improv for ten years now, I still remember my first class as clear as day. With that in mind, here’s my top 5 tips for beginners:

1.    Don’t worry about what other people think of you. I remember going to class thinking people would think I wasn’t well versed in things, good enough at accents, didn’t stand up straight enough, good enough in general…The list goes on. First of all, you’re awesome for just showing up! Second of all, everyone else will be so preoccupied with themselves that no offence, they probably won’t notice any of the stuff you’ll be worrying about - real or imagined!
2.    Be as present as possible. Don’t plan what you’re going to say or try and second guess the game or what your teammate might say. You won’t be able to. And that’s part of the joy. It’s one of the few times in your life you’re actively asked to be underprepared. Celebrate that freedom! 
3.    Be kind and open and listen. Listen to what people say in scenes. Not just a bit, but right to the end of their sentences. That’s often where the gold is.
4.    You might be nervous. That’s cool. Imagine your nerves as a big wave you’re gonna ride. Don’t try and get rid of them or get cross with yourself for having them. They’re totally normal. It’s just a question of getting used to that tidal wave of mild, brief (or maybe in some cases strong) feeling of nausea. Imagine your nausea as a regular, normal if slightly annoying next-door neighbour, that you say good morning to. Normalise it!
5.    Make the other person look good. Give people gifts. If your teammate loves sci-fi maybe drop some into a scene. If they love doing accents maybe endow them with one and watch them light up with joy. Make them look epic and you’ll look epic in the process. Use your intuition and try to avoid deliberately wrong-footing people or endowing them with something you know they’ll hate. For example, I can’t think of a single female improviser who is glad to be endowed with being a prostitute. Just so y’know. Maybe don’t go there ;) 

Rhiannon Vivian’s Top 5 Warm-up Games

I love surreal stuff, wordy stuff and character games. They can really get you out of your sensible brain which is what we want:

1.    What’s on your stupid T-shirt. I love this warm up because it’s so daft and so simple. There’s a chant of ‘what’s on your stupid T-shirt,’ then in a circle, players endow someone next to them by describing what’s on their imaginary T-shirt. The player who owns that T-shirt then has to caption it. Simple as! Puns are fun, but the best ones are the bonkers ones that make no sense at all.
2.    Character dial-up. Taking a small character quirk and line of dialogue and passing it across the circle, each time cranking up the affectations by 1%. By the end, when you’ve got 4 or 5 going, it looks like an absolute nonsense mess and is extremely funny.
3.    Mind Meld. I love words and this is a simple game where you say a word at the same time as someone else. Then all the players have to do is try and find a word in the middle of those two words, that encompasses both and say it at the same time as another player. Mind Meld!
4.    Not gonna lie, the best time to make up new improv games is after a few beers. If they still stand up in the morning, they’re going to get released into the improv universe. I made up a game with Lloydie from the Maydays that is a verbal version of Dutch Clapping (the cool clapping game where if you both put your hands in the same direction you celebrate with a high ten). You’re In The Army Now is just that, but with words! You’ve got four options: Left Tennant, Down Tennant, Up Tennant and Right Tennant. Just say them at each other at the same time. If you accidentally say the same one at the same time, then you celebrate by shouting ‘You’re in the Army Now!’ Easy! I implore everyone to make up at least one new improv game during their lifetime. 

5.    This one is from Chicago. Thanks Chicago! Ever wanted to make a remix machine out of humans? Yeah you do! Using clapping at the same time, different sets of words that would suit a rap or dance track (yeah! Woo! Alright!) are said by players in a circle simultaneously. Reverse the circle by double clapping. Soon enough you get a very limited but super cool human remix machine!

Rhiannon regularly teaches for Hoopla and is part of The Maydays, Dreamweaver Quartet, Bumper Blyton & Newsical who all perform on the Hoopla stage at The Miller.