Liverpool improv institution Hoof! returns from the dead next month for two one-off shows. The ensemble, part of the Spike Theatre stable, returns to the Unity on April 4 and 5.
It’s a resurrection for a much-loved comedy team. Hoof! called it a day in 2010 after nearly a decade of successfully making things up at home and on the international stage. Their residencies at the old Everyman were always a sell out, and they performed in America and elsewhere. Like other improvisational groups in the city, they had met and were inspired by the great granddaddy of the form (at least in the UK), Ken Campbell. So it’s fair to say when it comes to making stuff up, they know what they’re doing.
But when it all stopped being fun, a hiatus was called. “We had to recharge the batteries and get excited about it again,” Mark Smith, Spike Theatre co-director and founder member of Hoof! explains. “We started workshopping again in September last year and it felt right, so we decided to see where it takes us.”
With a few new players on board as well as some familiar faces, the rejuvenated Hoof! is ready to roll. The Unity shows will comprise of Smith, Glenn Noble and Jamie Greer, two on-stage musicians, a lighting technician and some first-timers who made the cut – actor and editor of The Public Reviews, John Roberts; and Elinor Randle of physical theatre company Tmesis. Guest appearances are promised too.
Hoof!’s improv is led by the players on the stage – unlike the work of another city group, Impropriety, or the likes of Whose Line is it Anyway, there’s no director calling scenes or setting up games for the cast to play; the evening’s entertainment simply unfolds as it will.
“Everyone works together and what happens, happens. There’s never a wrong way of doing it; it’s a really freeing, relaxing way to perform,” says Mark. “It’s an imaginary world that we create and we’re playing in; and it’s amazing how the the audience see that and pick it up. You can really play around. Every theatrical genre is royally exploited. In many ways there’s no limitations; the idea is to make it look as seamless as possible.”
One of Hoof!’s trademarks is the black suit and tie look. The outfits provide the performers with the only props they will have to hand to use – the only limit being their imagination; something that’s never in been in short supply. The idea for the troupe in the first place came from Spike Theatre‘s natural way of working to devise their own theatrical shows (in the last few years this has included The Games, Sink or Swim, and Top of the World to name a few).
The future of Hoof! after the two Unity shows is undecided, so don’t miss the chance to catch them while you can – for an evening of one-off, in-the-moment entertainment that will never be seen anywhere else ever again (have you tried searching for Hoof on YouTube? Forget it – it’s just gory tutorials for vets). Fans of improv will note that the shows take place just before Impropriety’s 33-and-a-half hour Improvathon, which you can catch at the Kazimier from lunchtime on April 6.