Play on!

The first performance went off remarkably well. None of the cast walked into the scenery, very few people in the audience fell asleep and almost none of them walked out half-way through. This is why it’s important to keep the bar closed until after the play is over. Those who wish to cap off a fine evening at the theatre can do so and those who wish to numb the pain of an appalling night out can also do so. Actually, the opening night audience was great – they clapped enthusiastically, laughed at inappropriate moments and fidgeted during the tense scenes.

In contrast, the Saturday evening audience sat and glared at us in stony-eyed silence. “Tough room”, I thought at the time. Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to judge from ‘the inside’, but I don’t think that the performance sucked too badly. There was some grudging applause at the final curtain, but I got the feeling it was more for the sake of form, rather than actual enjoyment. It was kind of like the tip you leave at a restaurant because you don’t want your date to think you’re cheap, even though the service was atrocious. I don’t know what they were expecting (after all, it does say ‘Tragedy‘ on all the posters), but I was left with the impression that many of them were regretting their decision to come to the theatre instead of staying in to watch Vin Diesel on TV.

Of course, nobody sets out to produce the theatrical equivalent of a steaming pile of excrement, but it’s a lot easier to screw things up than to strike the right balance. Consequently, it never ceases to amaze me that we have an audience at all. In these days of DVDs, satellite TV and special effects, it’s astonishing that the amateur stage still manages to attract a handful of faithful adherents who happily hand over their hard-earned cash for an evening of possibly dubious entertainment. Whatever their motivation – be it optimism, poor taste or blind loyalty to the cause – they make it all worthwhile in the end.

Update (19 July): The reviews are in. Two out of three critics recommend Antigone for your evening’s entertainment. For: Cape Times “superb” & Die Burger “kragtig*”, Against: Cape Argus “questionable”.

* powerful

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11 thoughts on “Play on!

  1. Having done quite a bit of acting myself, I can confirm that audiences are completely unpredictable. No two laugh and cry in exactly the same places. Sometimes an audience creates an atmosphere that gets the cast going, sometimes they wear the cast down. It has little to do with your performance – I’m sure you did great!

    Break a leg (we say “Toi toi toi”) coming Thursday!

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  2. Some people go for the cultural experience.
    Others go so that they can casually tell people, “I was at the Theatre the other evening,” in their poshest voice, in between name-dropping and drinking Cosmopolitans.
    I go cos I know how it feels to be on stage and hear the applause (or not). So I guess I fall into the Blind Loyalty category.
    Enjoy!

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  3. anne: As long as they don’t throw things that drip at the stage, I’m happy.

    lisa: It’s weird how behaves like a hive organism. It’s true that one can’t predict which how they’ll react, but it’s fun to try.

    terri: It’s always pleasant to encounter one of the faithful 🙂

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  4. I’ve heard that performers say that an audiences have characteristics. Tonight your show will receive wild applause, people will laugh and clap and go wild, and the next eve you’ll sit with a crowd so stiff, it’ll make the queen feel out of place.

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  5. You make me remember the enjoyment of community theater. Well, enjoyment, confusion, terror, distaste… you know. Your line about the bar is sooo true. I’m sure you all did a wonderful job. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t want to be – it’s not exactly a high profile/glory filled position. You do it because you feel drawn to it. Or perhaps you are a glutton for punishment… Will you be posting pics? Will you be inviting me to the afterparty? And what’s this you mentioned about the radio? You need to bring me up to speed. Apparently I’m a slow learner! =)
    Lucy M (argh)

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  6. ilo: Welcome back! Hope you had a worthwhile break from the daily grind. Audiences are fun. Before each show, I ask the Magic 8-Ball what to expect (it’s surprisingly accurate).

    LiVEwiRe: It’s a lot of fun most of the time. There would be no point whatsoever if it wasn’t.
    If you want to see some rehearsal pics, you can point your browser to http://tinyurl.com/bsp75, because I won’t be posting them here. You are definitely invited to the afterparty (venue still to be decided, though).
    With regard to the radio, every alternate Saturday, I do the weekend breakfast show on Cape Town’s local classical/jazz station called Fine Music Radio (101.3 FM). I am marginally famous.

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  7. i used to be somewhat of a theatre geek, too. loved it when i was younger. miss it terribly and keep telling myself i’ll go back and do a show at some point. unfortunately, i got married to my job and “he” takes up way to much of my time…

    i’m so happy for you to be involved with theatre. it’s so rewarding!

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  8. Cool blog just stumbled across it, from Forgotten machine’s place … will be back. Break a leg or whatever they say in thespian circles.

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  9. Thanks for the directions to the photos! The one of you as “second tree on left” was stunning! =) Seriously, it brings back good memories for me. Glad you are enjoying it!

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  10. jessafran: Damn that demanding bastard. How dare ‘he’!

    luke: Thanks. Hope to see you again 🙂

    Lucy McGoldNugget: No, no, no! I’m third tree on the left. Isn’t it obvious?

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