When the Holloway Players stand up to perform, they generally have no idea what they’re doing. By which I mean they won’t know what they’re doing until they’re doing it, and by then the spotlight is on and the show is in full swing. The compere gives them a game to play, the audience calls out a relationship, situation or location to adopt, and then they stand up in front of a minimum of 100 people and begin. And they’re bloody good at it.
The shows themselves are a series of games, a la Whose Line is it Anyway; improvised comedy on tap. The society has been performing for several years now, doing a couple of shows each term, filling Tommy’s Bar on Thursday nights with a crowd of tipsy onlookers (yes, there will always be a bar). And now, after their sell-out first SU show in mid-January, they’re stepping it up, performing two or three times a month. Their next show is on Feb 21st, which is soon, in case you were wondering. In fact, what you were more likely wondering is what exactly you’ll be getting when you buy your ticket – and trust me, you should buy one.
What you’ll be getting is varied, unique, and kind of masochistic. In the eyes of the Players, every new way of making things more difficult for themselves is a new game. There are games where they can’t speak and games where they can’t move. There are games where three people must become one, or where one person ends up being four, games where they have to guess who their fellow improvisers are, or even who they themselves are, games that test their storytelling, acting, memory, mime, or which demand that they sing an improvised song (in tune) on the spot. And half the time, the slightest stumble from a performer will result in the entire audience yelling ‘die’ at them with tremendous vigour. And then there’s the strong likelihood that they’ll be asked to become the moon, or Pulls-Fishes-From-His-Armpits-Man, or simply the concept of taxidermy.
Okay, guess who’s biased? You caught me, wily reader, I’ve been a RHUL Player for almost a year and a half now, and dammit I’m proud. Obviously, I can’t review myself, but I can review the rest of them. I am, as I’ve said, ‘biased’ but luckily, as I type, my aching hand reminds me of exactly why they’re so good. No, it’s nothing sexual. It’s just that we spend a minimum of 6 hours a week workshopping, discussing, practicing, and yet still, two days ago, I managed to bruise my hand through embarrassingly over-enthusiastic clapping, a wound which joins my three Player-caused scars (two heavy carpet burns and a stab wound) as a badge of honour. I still enter a state of unseemly mirth when a game begins, because it’s never the same thing twice, and these people are brilliant.
And if that’s not enough in the way of critical acclaim, don’t worry, there’s a reason we’re mounting the main SU stage and putting on more shows than ever before. It’s partly that Tommy’s has started to be filled to capacity, partly that in all the time I’ve watched the Players there’s never been a bad show, but mostly that no-one at Royal Holloway, no-one, dare I say, in the great county of Surrey, is quite so dedicated to making prats of themselves for your enjoyment. Of course, it helps that you, gentle reader/soon-to-be-audience-member, get to call out suggestions just to make our lives more ‘interesting’. But don’t worry, we can handle it.
The Holloway Players have several shows coming up, their main performances being Feb 21st in Tommy’s, March 10th in Tommy’s (Free!), and March 22nd for their second SU Main Hall show.