MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2021 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
STEVE ROE: HOOPLA IMPROV
As soon as the first lockdown was announced, arts and entertainment companies throughout the country began to look for ways to survive the impact of the pandemic. One of those ways was, of course, online performances. But another, just as important, was to offer learning and participation opportunities via online means.

Among those going the latter route was London-based improv-focused group Hoopla, who quickly moved their prolific programme of improv workshops online and have continued to offer their sessions via the internet through 2020 and into this new year.

I thought lots of our readers might be interested in joining in and - with that in mind - I decided to find out more about the classes, what goes on in them, and what Hoopla will be doing once lockdown ends. To that end, I spoke to the company's director and co-founder, Steve Roe.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

To find out more about Hoopla and to book yourself into one of their classes, see the website right here.
With full-on COVID restrictions still in place, this week we are tipping the best in digital culture from across the UK - including online shows from performers and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE THEATRICAL THINGS>>

Pass It On | The Space | 4-6 Feb
Okay, let's kick off this week's proceedings with some theatrical stuff for you to take in from the comfort of your own home, starting with one that's really ticking all my monologue-loving, new-writing-venerating, woman-esteeming boxes. This is a collection of sixteen monologues presented over the course of three nights, with a different line up every night and each event involving a watch party and then a Q&A session. "Pass It On. Let them know. No woman left behind. Woman of this world survive on a network of unheard conversations. Secrets passed from mothers to daughters, between friends, to colleagues, in the passing glances with strangers. What are these words? What happens when we amplify them? What would it mean to put them on stage?" More here.

Cronivision | Bait | 4-6, 25-27 Feb (pictured)
"Embark on an embodied, sensory exploration of our deepest feelings, desires and dreams as we search for meaning in a world where we spend more time speaking to screens than other human beings. 'Cronivision' is what might happen if David Lynch's granny remade 90's quest gameshow 'Knightmare' during lockdown. A Dantesque descent through the body to reach to the depths of the psyche, via surgical fruit, some hard liquor and a lot of worms". A fascinating sounding show from Michelle Madsen and Lizzy Shakespeare, whose previous work 'Kill The Princess' was a bit of a hit at the 2019 edfringe. And it's directed by Silvia Mercuriali, whom - you may remember - we interviewed a couple of weeks ago about her Autoteatro piece 'Swimming Home'. Book here.

First Stages Festival | Traverse Theatre | 1-28 Feb
Now we were talking earlier about new writing and emergent writers, and this is kind of related, but more aimed at those of you who are actually writers and theatre-makers or aspiring to be. This festival offers a range of interactive workshops, readings and Q&As involving names like Enda Walsh, Nessah Muthy, Ella Hickson and Simon Stephens. It's described as "a celebration of the Traverse's commitment to nurturing and supporting new voices, and expanding the skills of new and experienced creatives with the ambition of producing ever more transportive and meaningful experiences for audiences". See all the listings here.


THREE FROM LEICESTER COMEDY FESTIVAL>>

Patrick Monahan: Live & Unleashed One Off Internet Show For Leicester Comedy Festival | 6 Feb
Hurrah, just what you need as we leave gloomy January behind to head into a gloomier February, the news that the Leicester Comedy Festival - while not happening in the flesh, so to speak - will this year go ahead online and that means you can attend without even leaving the house. There are loads of interesting things to take in and I struggled really hard to narrow it down to just three things to tell you about. So I decided to go with a theme, which is that everyone recommended here is a past recipient of one of our edfringe TW Editors' Awards. And we start with the life-affirming Patrick Monahan, who really, really makes life better just by being in the same room with you. For more information see this page here.

John Robertson's The Dark Room | 6 Feb (pictured)
"YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM! You, the audience, are trapped in an interactive, retro gaming nightmare; choose an option, find the way out, and escape The Dark Room! If you succeed, you'll take home £1000… but if you fail, YOU DIE! And in the end, everybody plays… So will you: A) Find the Light Switch? B) Go North? C) Abandon Hope?" Another TW Award winner - and, it's fair to say, a Fringe legend - John Robertson brings his absolute institution of a show to Leicester Comedy Festival via the power of Zoom and NextUp Comedy. For more info and to book yourself in, head right this way.

Mark Watson: How You Can Almost Win + This Can't Be It | 8 Feb
And talking of Fringe legends - because we undoubtedly were, all three of these acts are in that category - here's another, and one whose work you are surely all familiar with. "In 2017, Mark Watson - a man prone to considerable anxiety, with multiple phobias and a history of piss-poor self-esteem - was asked to go on 'Celebrity Island' with Bear Grylls. It really wasn't for him at all because his favourite things include safety, comfort, food and not being scared and miserable. But the experience changed the shambolic comedian for the better, and now he's written a sort of motivational talk about what it taught him. But still with jokes. Then, even more jokes in a preview of his BRAND NEW show, hurtling straight into your living room". Click here.


THREE MORE ONLINE EVENTS>>

Simon Munnery - The Manchester Experiment | 6 Feb
Wow, I was just talking about three Fringe legends, which - to be honest - is not surprising, given they were all acts at the Leicester Comedy Festival. But then the first show in the next, non-Leicester events section just happens to be another edfringe stalwart. It's almost as if I arranged that, somehow. Anyway, this is an interesting one, involving a VHS recording of a show that Simon Munnery did twenty years ago, of which he says: "It's a show I only did twice and that only worked once". It's going to be shared via a one-off live stream, which will include a live introduction from Munnery and a Q&A with him after it has screened. Read more, and buy tickets, here.

Sunday Concerts: Hill Quartet | Conway Hall | 7 Feb
As you know, we've been turning to Conway Hall quite a lot lately for our online cultural needs, and this time it's for one of their fab Sunday concerts. Performing this week are The Hill Quartet, aka Bridget O'Donnell (violin), David López Ibáñez (violin), Julia Doukakis (viola) and Ben Michaels (cello). They will be playing Haydn's 'Quartet E Flat Op 64/6', Schubert's 'Quartet In D Minor' - aka 'Death And The Maiden' - and a new piece commissioned by the quartet themselves, 'Winter Blues' by Misha Mullov-Abbado. For more information and to book head right this way.

Stay Awake, Jake | Southwark Playhouse | until 11 Feb (pictured)
"'Stay Awake, Jake' is a bold and innovative new show that tells the story of one man's journey across England's deserted motorways in the middle of the night, as he drives from London to Carlisle in a frantic bid to save his relationship". So, more in the musical vein now - though of the musical theatre genre - this began its online run a few days ago but you can still see it until 11 Feb. If you think you've already heard of it, that might be because it's an award winning piece that stormed the Vault Festival in 2016. Though I must confess I was drawn to it on account of the fact that I did a lot of journeying between London and Carlisle in the early part of this century. In any case, it sounds great - a story of " love, responsibility, fatherhood, and ultimately what it means to be a man in the 21st century". Click here.
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