Why Everything Matters

When working in theatre, we tend to be very selfish people. We get caught in our creative bubbles, in the joy of our performance or show and rarely do we see it in any other light than that of good. Excellence of the highest praise! Of course this is naturally to be expected.

Someone has spent many hours going over the words, finding the right pace of dialogue and just the right adjective to make an audience fall about laughing. A strong figure has sort about directing the piece, and the actors have spent many a night learning their line and ensuring they don’t perspire too much in the costume that has been made for them.

Yet, despite all of the effort that has gone into a show. Sometimes we, the audience, won’t like it.

That’s not to say we can’t appreciate the effort that has gone into it, the fact we are there in the first place shows some kind of commitment that we wanted to go and enjoy ourselves. We have duly paid our money, and arrived in our seat to watch, but that doesn’t mean we will enjoy what we see.

The problem may not even be the play itself, for as audiences we are naturally humans, and with this strange concept comes emotion, desires, day dreams, inabilities and a long list of faults and natural qualities. This is to say – sometimes things affect us before we even make it to the theatre which can determine the whole outcome of a show, regardless of time, effort and love put into it.

It’s a sad fact to be made. If we are held up by traffic, as Mark Shenton reported this week for a show, and only just manage to slip into your seat before the show starts – this could knock the whole show into the woes for you. Equally, not managing to get your favourite seat in the theatre as Lyn Gardner spoke of her fond memories in her blog last week. These all play a part on our perspectives on the show.

That is to say, if in the course of leaving our homes or work, we have travelled a terrible journey, had trouble collecting our tickets as we don’t have the right card with us – we find the drinks over priced, the programme lacking in anything but advertisements and our seat anything but comfy – we might just not enjoy the show.

Of course I would hope that the show I am attending would have the ability to knock me sideways, bring me out of my gloom and blow away the cob webs of regret. Yet we all know that sometimes that sensational theatre experience isn’t to be had every time we go to the theatre.

So to the producers, the actors, the directors, and everyone involved in theatre. Let it be clear: as audiences we are human, and with this comes the ability for our moods and sensitivities to every little detail in our night at the theatre to affect the way we see your show.

So don’t be offended when we don’t enjoy it – sometimes, it’s just not our day for theatre. Oh, and everything, every little thing we encounter on route to our seat matters, even if it happens outside of the building.

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6 Responses to Why Everything Matters

  1. Craig says:

    An interesting blog. I think when I go to the theatre, I take into account consciously and subconsciously many aspects which form my opinion of the show – I’d collectively call these the “experience” (which sounds deliciously wanky). I mean, you mentioned the programmes, but even the quality and presentation of the tickets can have an effect.

    Something which have you haven’t covered, however, and makes a difference as to how much I enjoy a production is simply hype. In order to say if I enjoyed something, I would normally want to compare it to what I expected or had hoped for – and sadly in these times when the loud bangs of the hype machine can be heard months before any production, all too often are audiences left to be disappointed. After all, any play/movie/TV show that can live up to it’s marketing budget didn’t need to marketing budget to begin with.

    Craig

    • Jakeyo says:

      I think Craig that as human beings we can’t help but to be affected by everything that is around us. Most of this will be subconscious whilst some of it will be from our direct contact with conscious decisions. I think you are completely right to state that they form the collective of ‘experience’.

      As for hype, well this is certainly true. Peter Brook’s latest work for example has had so much hype around it… whilst I was in complete awe of it, there has been numerous people declaring how awful it was. How the hype of the idea of having another Brook show caused too much anticipation for what we were to experience.

      Marketing of course plays a HUGE part in all of this. As I said through Twitter, sadly theatres have to get the seats filled from the outset and can’t rely upon the natural growth of the ‘hype’ of a good show. Word of mouth doesn’t make ticket sales boom, as it’s an organic process.

      Thanks for a great comment!

      Jake

  2. Roo says:

    And then there’s tiredness. Do you remember this from John Simm?

    “I got really really angry with people falling asleep at The Bush,” he says. “I know it was hot in April, and I know it’s a very small theatre, but if you’re old and you’re tired, don’t sit in the f***ing front row. Don’t come to the theatre.”

    Well it’s all very well for him to say but I don’t know whether I’ll be tired or not when I buy the tickets unless it’s very last minute.

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/theatre/article-23404164-the-original-simm.do

    • Jakeyo says:

      Another great point raised Roo. Weather has a huge affect upon audiences and their reactions to a show.

      Take a theatre with little foyer space and a downpour of rain – you get a soggy and cramped audience who aren’t amused at the thought of then sitting in a theatre damp!

      Temperature also affects me, and I’m sure a lot of other people too. If I’m too hot, or two cold I get distracted from the action and instead find myself regretting to wear an extra laye, or even my theatre choice!

      Jake

  3. Henrik says:

    Just pressing the “comment” button to mention the hype-issue, I found Craig beat me to it. With a big hype, much expectations, the audience is left either mind-blowed, or disappointed. It’s an art to promote the show enough for people to come, and yet not so much that the show won’t live up to it. After all, not every show is FANTASTIC either, even though the commercial might say so…

  4. While being, on the whole, in agreement with this, Jake, I must stick my hand up for the times when I have braved the snows (remember last Feb when London came to a standstill after one day of snow? The Young Vic STILL opened for ‘King Lear’ and I managed to get a bus to get me there.) Was it expectation of seeing this production? Was it my resilience against warnings that ‘made’ me enjoy this piece of theatre or at least, made it more special as an experience?

    Unless, unless EVERYTHING that could have gone wrong for me to get there that night, not finding my Oystercard for ages, tube breaking down, falling in puddles, misplaced tickets, someone in my seat, arguing with the person I’m with – it might take me a few minutes to catch up but I always try and turn on my other part of the brain that is there for good work.

    I put’not enjoying the show’ down to the fact that it didn’t move me, didn’t transform. Yes, external factors might play a part in my enjoyment of theatre but if it’s that tragic, it’s only theatre, real life has to be dealt with first, let’s face it. Don’t go to the theatre.

    Otherwise, you can usually tell theatre-by-numbers pretty easily, whether it’s the acting or the production. If I didn’t enjoy it or wasn’t moved or wasn’t entertained (in a positive way) then there is something lacking in the production. Maybe I have pretty high standards when it comes to theatre but if it didn’t move, then it’s not Art. Art should tame the beast, should transcend, surely?

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