Horley Dingbats enjoying online improv success

Dingbats Improv are still going strong with their weekly online classes three lockdowns after launching last year.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 1:07 pm
Dingbats Improv Show - Ed Pithie

Founder Ed Pithie started Dingbats Improv in Horley more than six years ago. Since then, it has grown to run two improv classes a week and a monthly show for the participants. As Ed explains: “Improv comedy is the art of making up scenes, sketches and stories on the spot with a group. The workshops not only provide a place to learn how to improvise theatre but are a platform for people to come and express themselves in a room with no judgement, to have real belly laughs and to meet like-minded people.

“When the coronavirus forced a national lockdown, as with much else, the improv workshops and shows came to a halt. Many of the frequent participants needed this platform to be creative and for their mental health. They were even due to begin improv classes at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley when the pandemic hit.”

A month into lockdown, and Dingbats Improv launched their online classes.

Ed said: “I was surprised at how well the lessons went online. It took time to understand how to use online learning to its full potential. I managed to translate a lot of the exercises we would play in a classroom to work well on Zoom, using the features available to me such as Breakout Rooms, Private Chat, Whiteboard, and Screenshare. We’ve even started running free shows online.”

Using the video conferencing website Gather.town, the group has successfully transformed their shows, which would usually take place at the Archway Theatre Studio, into a virtual environment.

“You can visit the theatre with your avatar and watch or perform improv comedy! We even launched a podcast called Dingbats of Horley.

“Ten months later and the online sessions are proving as popular as the real-life sessions. They are not just attracting local people from Sussex and Surrey. They have even had participants from France, Canada and the USA joining them after discovering them online. I think they have been so popular because the great thing about improv is that it transports you to another place. When you’re playing in a theatre, you forget you’re on a stage and you imagine you’re on a beach, or a library or inside the belly of a whale or wherever the scene is based! It’s no different on Zoom. When you’re in the scene, you forget you’re all in separate little boxes and you’re back in that whale belly together!”

The online sessions are every Monday and open to anyone to join (over the age of 17). A place costs £6 a session.

Anyone interested in joining the online workshops or just finding out more about the community can get in touch at [email protected] or visit www.dingbatsimprov.com.

“Our aim is to spread the joy of theatrical improv and its benefits throughout the south-east. We run fun workshops (now online), we put on excellent shows (also online) and we organise socials for the community.”

Dingbats’ workshops started in 2014 at The Archway Theatre in Horley, Surrey and they have continued almost every week since.