2020 got you down? Bring play into your day!

2020 got you down? Bring play into your day!

By James Hancox

Like many of you, this year hasn’t been at all what I was expecting. One moment, me and my family were travelling around the world, ready to start a new life in Perth – the next we were on lockdown in Forrestfield and making our own banana bread.

In these uncertain times, it helps to remind yourself to live in the moment – and there’s no better way of doing this than to find a way to play every day.

For several years, I’ve built a career around encouraging adults to play and be silly – through interactive comedy shows, corporate gameshows and creative workshops. So let me be your guide!

Here’s my top tips for bringing more play into your day:

1. Make something rubbish

When we play, we’re essentially creating for the sake of creating – with no expectation of the perfect end product. For me, the best practice of this idea is making stuff from junk. There’s no pressure to be perfect – ultimately whatever you make, it will still technically be rubbish at the end, so just enjoy the process!

Take a piece of trash and just start sticking, cutting and painting until you end up with something – it might be something you can wear, a prop from your favourite movie, or a puppet.

The best part is – if it is truly awful in the end, you’ll have no issues with sticking it straight back in the bin after.

James Hancox with his rubbish version of the War Horse, in his Fringe World Festival show 1000 Great Lives
Here’s me with a rubbish version of the War Horse puppet, in my Fringe show ‘1000 Great Lives’.

2. Wake up your inner child

As we all know – children are pretty awesome at playing. As a result, the places made for children are pretty awesome at reawakening your own inner kid. Since having a toddler, I’ve had a bit more of an excuse to go to fun places that are clearly not designed for me.

If you have access to a little one, I personally recommend going for an explore and climb at Naturescape in Kings Park or sitting amongst some chickens at Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm.

For those of you who don’t have access to a little one, there are plenty of venues in Perth that are ‘playgrounds for adults’ – try Holey Moley Golf Pub in Northbridge or Bounce Inc in Cannington.

James Hancox riding a tiny tractor at Cuddly Animal Farm in the Swan Valley.
Here I am riding a tiny tractor at the Cuddly Animal Farm. My family were there too. Honestly.

3. Dress up

As many a great philosopher has said: “it’s difficult to be sad in a wig”. Probably. By dressing up – especially in something silly – you’re reminding yourself to play.

If – like me – you’re a fan of movies, the immersive movie nights at Luna Palace and the magnificent Girls School provide a perfect opportunity to get your glad rags on. Better still, why not use your new found making skills to craft an outfit out of junk?

4. Play games

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my creative life, it’s that any activity can be turned into a game (in fact, that idea formed the basis of my show ‘Sports For The Unsporty‘).

So why not gamify bits of your day: see how many people can you say hello to before you get to work, or how many socks can you pair in 60 secs, or how many tomatoes you can hold in your hand at the market. Then let me know, I’m genuinely curious – @mrjameshancox

5. Do a little dance

There’s nothing like a little dance to shake the serious cobwebs off. It doesn’t have to be in front of a crowd with gymnastic ribbons (although if that’s your thing, get in touch) – but just a little one as you make your breakfast in the morning.

If you need more encouragement, find a music track that is a guilty pleasure from when you were a teenager. It’s the same idea as before, the sillier the track the less you’ll care about perfecting the moves. My own playlist features 99 Red Balloons and a ridiculously large selection of Bon Jovi.

James Hancox ribbon dancing with a someone from the crowd at the Edinburgh Festival.
Ribbon dancing with someone from the crowd at the Edinburgh Festival.

6. Improvise

If you’re keen to take your playing skills to the next level, an improvisation class is a great place to start. Improvisation is all about playing in the here and now, and a good class will give you all the tools to do so.

Take a look at Only The Human and The Big Hoo Haa for classes – or if you fancy bringing some play into your workplace, check out the work of The Experience Lab.

7. Have a laugh

James Hancox performing a comedy show.

Play is all about having fun, and where better to do so than at a comedy show?

Take a look at the line-ups at The Laugh Resort or Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den – and don’t forget to pencil in the dates for next year’s Fringe World Festival.

Until then, keep playing – I’m off to bake some more banana bread.

James is a comedian, events host and teacher. He is a regular at Fringe World Festival, and was nominated for the Best Comedy Award in 2018. He now lives in Perth with his partner and toddler, and spends every day being silly with her.

To find out about his gigs, workshops and future trips to the Cuddly Animal Farm, say hello @mrjameshancox.