Waging War on the Audience. By Stephen Hill

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Here’s a bit of a conversation for ya -

Person 1- hello friend/relative/colleague I’m currently promoting my play/gig/show/performance that I will be appearing in and was wondering if YOU would be interested in coming to see it?

Person 2 – gosh! How wonderful! I’d love to see you, a friend/relative/colleague of mine, express yourself creatively in a performance medium such as a play/gig/show/performance. Count me in!

Person 1 – excellent! Here is the time and date. I look forward to seeing you at my event.
Person 2 – and I in turn look forward to being there… There is just one other thing I’d like to clarify.

Person 1 – of course. I’d be happy to answer any questions about my performance.

Person 2 – good. Well I was just wondering if it would be acceptable for me to arrive late, having had too much to drink, cause an unsettling commotion on said arrival, pay no attention to the performance, talk to my friends, pull focus from the performers, comment loudly on what is going on with no courtesy of other audience members, try to impose my own agenda upon a night which is not about me in the slightest and then tell everyone afterwards that it was a worthless pile of nonsense?

Person 1 – that would be totally acceptable. In fact it would benefit the night as a whole. Do you need comps?

This is a conversation I’ve never heard but am sure must take place regularly. How else to explain the amount of ignorant, heck ling arsehole audience members that frequent every theatre, cinema, comedy club and music venue in the country.

Let’s get one thing clear. If you, as an audience member, do not give full attention to an artist on-stage you have no right, literally no right, to criticise them in any way. As far as I am concerned the success of a performance is split 50/50 in terms of artist and audience member. Yes, it is the artists duty to drive the show on and keep the audience gripped and interested. But the audience has to be receptive, primed to give the performer their approval to continue with the same momentum. If you aren’t listening, aren’t interested then why the hell should they be interested in entertaining you? Why shouldn’t they think “what’s the point?” And go through the motions. That’s true of the psychological effects of any relationship bearing that same dynamic. One tries hard as hell to please he who cannot be sated until they lose the will and give up. Is that solely their fault? No, clearly not. Does it make them talentless, or worthless? Again, no it doesn’t.

Disinterest can kill the mood, if you like, but to actually chirp up, make yourself the centre of attention, heckle essentially, is simply the worst thing you can do to suck any kind of momentum and feeling of professionalism from a piece of work. Having done stand up for the last five years I have had my fair share of hecklers. Some, I might have asked for. Some are just empty headed cretins. What’s amazing is the fact that they think they are helping. Too many times to recall I’ve had my nemesis tell me how much fun they’ve had ruining my set and saying “I helped you out didn’t I mate! We had a laugh!” No. And if you think otherwise then think about doing the same thing during a wedding ceremony as the happy couple took their vows or as someone gave a eulogy at a funeral. You wouldn’t. Unless you were a massive cock.

I’m not saying everything deserves a standing ovation and back slapping all round for the folks involved just by deciding to get up on that big stage all by their little selves. You big bwave soldiers you! It doesn’t, some things are utter drivel and you can’t help being bored and pissed off (I sat through Stephen K Amos in Edinburgh once and the last half hour was filled with me looking around for heavy stuff that might fall on me and stop the perfomance. Thus achieving martyrdom). Fair enough. Leave or sit there and suffer it. As long as you don’t find it offensive then there is no need to start a fight with it is there? No. Good. Glad we agreed.

Don’t feel like this has been an attack. Quite the opposite, what I’m saying is – audiences are important. Just as important as those on stage. Those egomanical, self important folks up there need YOU if they are going to perform to their maximum potential. So, for me, give them a break… And don’t rustle sweets in the cinema. Yeah they can’t hear it. But I can. There’s a good audience member.

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