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”.