Need some Covid-Secure social rehab?

Try an improv class!

The Bristol Improv Theatre opened its doors for classes this week, for the first time since we closed them in March. Teaching the first one involved me shaking off the dust which had gathered on my face-to-face interpersonal skills. 

Like many others, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster during lockdown, riding the waves of despair, craving physical contact from my friends, adapting to working and socialising on zoom, starting (and stopping) new hobbies (don’t talk to me about knitting). 

If one thing is certain, during these uncertain times, it’s that we’ve all been on a ride.

Coming back to work and seeing people face to face after seeing them for so long on my laptop screen is WEIRD. My brain and body seems to be working twice as hard again to get used to reading the body language of 6 to 8 people. I’m remembering how to make small talk with people I’ve just met. I have to put on clothes which aren’t pyjamas from the waist down.

It’s made me incredibly grateful for the art form which is my trade. One of the many reasons I love improv is that, when we learn it, we get to practice socialising. 

As someone who experiences social anxiety, when I got into improv, I lapped up the opportunity in classes to follow a clear structure by which we are gently encouraged to interact with and talk to people we don’t know. Any awkward lulls or moments are navigated through by the instructor, the exercises and the focus of the session.

I was really anxious about the return to work. I’d gotten used to the 10 second commute to my living room for Zoom classes and primarily meeting people in person that I knew. I thought I might have forgotten how to words say right people understand so.

Interestingly… I felt electric after the first class. Tired, for sure, but electric having been able to safely make contact with real live people in a Covid Secure way.

One of my fears was that the 2m distancing during class, handwashing or wearing a mask on arrival would kill the playful side of improv…turns out practicing ‘acceptance’ and resilience through the improv tools of ‘happy fail’ helps us to navigate these new elements in a graceful way. I have been charmed and delighted by the stories and moments which have come up in physically distanced improv so far…

They include:

  • Groups of people connecting over zoom fatigue
  • Two people wearing giant hats as the reason why they need to keep their distance
  • Improv poetry- ‘my love is like a face mask, I carry it everywhere I go…’

And so much laughter!

By the end of the first class, the room felt relaxed and comfortable. People left smiling. Feeling a little nervous or anxious at the start was ok because everyone was feeling a little nervous or anxious. 

If you are craving social or community connection in a structured and supportive way, where distancing measures are put in place, why not sign up for an improv class?

It’s the ‘social rehabilitation’ of the COVID era.

Scenework Skills is a 4-week course capped at 7 places which starts on Monday 12th October. It is suitable for beginners and students with some improv experience looking to shake off the cobwebs. For full details of what the Theatre is doing to make the space Covid-Secure, please read this blog