Being Claire Hooper

By Colin Flaherty
Being Claire Hooper

If you’re in the Town Hall precinct on the weekend and you encounter sinister, robe clad figures being approached by flustered people who act strangely then dash off, don’t be alarmed! You are witnessing those seeking enlightenment from comedy goddess Claire Hooper.

Pop Up Playground are a group that devise and run “immersive reactive situations”, in this case a game that is part live action role playing, part car rally (minus the car obviously!) and part cryptic crossword using Claire Hooper’s absence from this years’ festival as a framing device. In teams or individuals we play devotees to the cult of Hooper, following clues to various locations and solving puzzles as we head towards a final destination.

It’s an immensely fun experience that not only is themed on the Melbourne Comedy scene but is humorous to boot. From an amusing personality survey to the many religious cult tropes. From witty Hooper penned instructions to the ridiculousness of the po-faced acolytes you will be giggling as well as confused.

Clues at each location point you in the direction of the next locale, additional clues describe an extra pilgrimage (which managed to slip by us but we didn’t feel we missed anything significant) and there is often an amusing task to perform. Even though an expansive map makes the journey quite daunting for the brisk hour (we feared that perhaps we should have been running between spots instead of casually strolling), the POP Crew ensures that all arrive at the final destination in time to witness the conclusion to this story.

There are a few issues with the game that didn’t ruin the experience but made it a little difficult. The black on purple colour scheme is difficult to read in low light (even with the supplied torches), some locations require significant stair climbing (so unfortunately those with mobility issues aren’t catered for) and the final destination is in a noisy public space with some of the subtlety of the ceremony lost.

If you’re looking for something unique to include in your festival going experience, this is a brilliant activity to participate in. You can throw yourself into the story as much or as little as you feel comfortable with and a fun time will be had by all. Just follow the instructions to the best of your ability and you will soon discover the light and word of Being Claire Hooper.

The Being Claire Hooper experience departs from the Bourke & Wills Statue at the City Square on weekends until April 17