On the 14th June the Over 50’s Improv Gym assembled at Storyhouse for our usual Thursday morning gathering, Except it wasn’t remotely usual as, along with other invited community groups, we were to be visited by Queen Elizabeth II and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex who were to officially open Storyhouse.
We wandered to Storyhouse down Northgate Street, past the crowds awaiting the arrival of the Royal Party. Closed to traffic, decked with flags and bunting, Northgate Street looked great and made a strong case for pedestrianisation. Entering Storyhouse through thorough but smiley and good-humoured security, our group were shown up to our performance space, the book pod on the first floor, close to the cinema entrance. There was then a fairly lengthy wait, plenty of time for warm-ups and to say hello to the Syrian Refugee Women’s group based alongside us.
Shortly before midday applause and shouts of “Meghan!” from the street below indicated that the Royals had arrived. Before the visit, there was a minute’s silence in commemoration of the Grenfell Tower Disaster.
Improv Group aren’t experienced performers so the tension was growing as we approached our public debut, before Her Majesty the Queen. To break the ice, we started off with warm-up exercise, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’: basically standing in a circle sending a ‘pulse’ to each other in turn, saying the word ‘zip’ each time. Other moves such as ‘zap’ send the clap in different directions. Typically, the game collapses in hysteria (at our ages recalling the word ‘zip’ is a major challenge). As the silliness progressed the familiar figure of the Queen appeared beside us. Andrew Bentley the Chief Executive of Storyhouse introduced the group and our facilitator Liz Morris explained who we were, as we zip zapped away, dissolving in giggles in the book pod.
The Queen beaming a big smile asked, “What on earth are you doing?” Much to my surprise, our visitors were sufficiently intrigued by our antics that they remained to watch a short improvisation before continuing their tour. The Queen and Duchess appeared genuinely interested by everything they encountered at Storyhouse. This was a lovely event, impressively organised by the SH team, and a great day for the city; Chester looked fantastic in the national news reports that evening. Outside Storyhouse there were even camera crews from the United States – before we know it big tour groups of Americans will be eager to spend their holiday dollars in our city.
Over 50’s Improv Gym meets every Thursday from 11:00 until 12:00 in the Storyhouse Meeting Room. The current season runs until the 19th of July, with a summer break until September. Come and join us, you are guaranteed to have fun and evidently, you never know who might pop in to say hello!