In Collaboration With Perrier
No don’t worry, you haven’t wandered onto the wrong blog! This post is basically for everyone who gives a blank look whenever they’re asked about hobbies. The thing about being a creative freelancer is that most of the things I do for fun, end up being work as well (this makes me a hoot on the dating apps, as you can imagine). There are very few things that make me completely forget about my smartphone and although Netflix and brunching are fun, I sometimes wonder whether it’s time to try something a bit different.
I often think back to when I was younger and that period before you have to make any life-changing decisions. Even though I had The Sims and Geocities to distract me, I still managed to pack in several after-school clubs with the odd bit of crafting at weekends. I really related to Emma Gannon when she stated that we’ve all got things we were good at as children, that have been beaten out of us in adulthood. The best thing was being able to experiment with all sorts of activities, even if we had no interest in pursuing them as a career.
I got a little bit excited when Perrier challenged me to try something wild during the tamest part of the year, in honour of their collaboration with artist Juan Travieso. One thing I’ve been curious about recently is improvisation classes. I really loved drama as a teenager (I still remember my four lines as Curio in Twelfth Night) but once you get to a certain point in your studies, certain things fall by the wayside. Now as an adult, how would I fare when I’m put on the spot and forced to use my imagination?
The Halfway Point
After watching Very Serious People at a Christmas party and hearing about Hoopla via a friend, I decided to sign up for an 8-week beginners improvisation course. Apparently it helps with building confidence and although I’d definitely class myself as an extrovert, I’ve noticed myself playing it safe in certain networking situations. This is what’s happened so far.
I arrive at the class and I’m confronted by a room filled with women. OK, so this may not be the chance for me to meet my Prince Charming, but I soon get over it and start chatting to a girl who happens to have my surname. Our teacher is Alison, who briefly explains the benefits of improv. It’s a way to conquer certain fears and feel the confidence to make things up on the spot. It can even give you the courage to break through personal limitations.
The session starts off with a few icebreakers and before long we’re pretending to fight each other, making silly noises and trying to remember random facts. You’re meant to be spontaneous at times but I found it tricky to let go during some of the exercises. Case in point, we had to introduce ourselves with an action that describes something we like doing, but I find myself rooted to the spot instead of showing my best Zumba moves. I definitely feel the need to impress and it doesn’t help that my cough escalates towards the end.
Despite feeling sickly, it’s definitely a fun way to spend a Monday evening and I haven’t looked at my phone once. It’s nice to be a bit silly and just forget about life.
I’m finally cough free and a helluva lot more relaxed. The class starts off with us trying to recall names again (I’m still a bit rubbish) and including a random fact about our day. Again I feel the need to impress with something amazing, when in reality all I did was catch a lot of buses.
The next exercise sees us in a circle giving an ‘offer’ to the next person along. It can be as random as asking someone to shave of all their body hair and the other person has to go along with it. Seeing as I’m halfway round the circle, I start panicking and worrying that everyone else is doing better than me. Perhaps the key is to go first one week to try and shake things up?
I finally come up with something relating to wigs (always a failsafe joke) and start to loosen up a bit. It’s okay to be a bit surreal and spontaneous. The highlight was getting into groups of four and pretending that we all ended up having surgery on the same day. It reminded me of what I enjoyed about drama at school, playing around and taking on a completely different character.
I’m learning a few more names and trying to pair up with different people in the class. There’s a 70-year-old lady who’s done a bit of improv before and she comes up with some hilarious situations. The sole guy in the group also adds surreal twists and most of the two and a half hours are spent rolling around laughing.
The final performance sees us acting out random situations only with sounds. It’s more physical than you think, so it’s best to bring layers and trainers to feel a bit freer. Again I find it stressful to think of different scenarios, even though I’m constantly being told that there’s no judgement or need to be funny. I want to be funny! Alison reminds us that if you really commit to a scene, the humour will come from that.
Typical, my cough is back again and I end up missing Monday’s class. Thankfully I’m feeling better by Wednesday and decide to bring Lucy along to their weekly improv nights at The Miller. The first hour is ‘Improv jam’, where the audience is free to join in and practice before watching a show.
As soon as I spot the stage in the darkened room I think ‘Pfffft, no way am I getting up there.’ Still, we have a fun few hours watching various acts and laughing at the crowd-sourced scenes. Each performance is spontaneous and the participants really have to cleverly control the scene to bring it towards a natural conclusion. It’s definitely a fun way to spend an evening in London and a lot of the shows are either free or under a tenner.
So what have I realised halfway through the course? Improv is a great way to connect with other people at different stages in their lives and let loose on a Monday evening. It’s weird, when I was younger being silly came a bit more naturally but I still remember being scared in certain situations. Now I understand myself better and I’m ready to confront my existing insecurities.
I know that trying this out as part of a collaboration technically means that it’s work, but I now have four more weeks where I can focus on building confidence and thinking on my feet. I’m excited to see what situations we’ll end up in, I’ve already pretended to be a nun and a member of a band comprising of air hostesses. Perhaps I’ll make it to the stage eventually?
Thanks so much to Perrier for sponsoring this post and prompting me to try something new! You can win some of the wild goodies yourself by entering their Twitter competition.