April 05, 2015

Improv and Room Escapes

No food this week, no drink, just a couple of things I've done in town recently that I've enjoyed, and figure other people might too.

Improv Classes

Hosted at Paper Street Theatre's studios on Fort Street, here you can learn how to improvise.  Dave Morris runs classes for beginners upwards, giving basic skills in the art of improv acting.  I went on the level one course for four weeks and had a great time.  I'm not an actor and do not play one of TV. I went just to see what it was like and with the offer of it being 'like Yoga, but funnier', I just said 'yes, and....'.

The class reminded me of Theatre Studies I did when I was thirteen. You go into a big open space and leave behind the days work.  You do some stuff that uses you imagination and your body and sense of let's pretend.  Then you walk out back to the real world, a little refreshed.

There are aspects of play, such as passing around an imaginary ball while chanting an inane rhythm.  There are aspects of learning, where you try to build on the simple ideas Dave has taught to get better at removing your natural reaction to say 'no'.  And there are aspects of acting and using your body to portray a character.

It's a lot of fun, and a lot of mental work.  Learning to listen, react and do -all at the same time- is hard.  But somehow rewarding when you and your partners form something that's bigger than the small parts each of you added.  I got some confidence out of it, and also a lesson in learning that maybe I am not as good at listening as I thought. I really enjoyed being aware of the now.  Not in a passive way of meditation. But an active way, of hearing and doing, and trying not to over think, and learning the art of saying 'Yes, and....'.

Epic Escape

Escape rooms started from a computer game trope.  A text adventure where there was just one room, and you had to collect and find items in order to get out.  So in a reversal virtual reality mirroring the real world, someone came up with the idea of locking people in a real room and challenging them to escape. In under sixty minutes.

I've been fascinated by this idea since I read about ones in London, going as far as planning a trip to Vancouver this year to try one out.  So when I heard about an escape room opening in Victoria, I booked my session for 48 hours later, and then convinced people to come and join me.

Five of us got together to the venue on the top floor of an old brick building in Bastion Square and were welcomed by the owners and inventors.  They briefed us on our task (get out of the room, the key is in that electronic safe, and no... you can't just punch in numbers and hope), told us not to rip up the sofa cushions or stick our fingers in the plug sockets, locked the door and let us get on with it.

I can't really say what we had to do, to avoid spoiling it for other people. But the room was smaller and emptier than I expected, but there was a lot of things to solve in there.  Some were obvious what the puzzle was, even if the solution was not. Others it was not clear what the puzzle was at all or at least not yet.

Everything made logical sense when we did solve it. There was much frowning when we got stuck and when progress was slow. But this had the flip side of the elation and cheers when we did find the next step, solve a puzzle and get rewarded with new parts to play with.  You can get a clue from the people running the game, who keep watch on you via a camera.  We needed it after being stumped for several minutes.

The five of us were kept entertained throughout, and we got close to getting out in the last seconds, but the pressure of time made us hurry too much to really step back for a second and think about it.  The puzzles ranged all over the map and were not of any one type, so don't expect to have to know a lot about everything.  The room was small so for five of us we did trip over each other a little bit, and it did get hot in there.  But otherwise, everyone had a great time.

My only disappointment is that they only have one scenario set up right now, as I really would like to go again sooner rather than later.

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