Audiences are one of the most intricate parts of live theatre especially when it comes to farces like The Government Inspector. Each night we are greeted with anticipation of what tonight’s group will be like- will it be the same rowdy crowd that arrived for LiveWired? Or perhaps the sleepy Sundays longing for their afternoon nap? In an ideal world the actions on stage would not reflect the energy in the house and we could produce the same exact show every night, but that would be no fun. The relationship of the cast and audience has always intrigued me. Actors are open individuals taking on a role in an alternate reality in order to tell a story, but the vulnerability of the audience is what determines what each night will be like.
Often times the audience will need to warm up to a show. They will sit in their seats and slowly adjust to the sweet spot where they can comfortably relax and sink into the show, feeding off the vibes of everyone else watching the show, and truly allow themselves to enjoy. This is a reasonably well oriented group who many or may not attend the theatre regularly and have some respect for it. However, when you get a well-trained, open audience into a space, sparks fly. There is a sudden burst of energy that feeds backs and forth between patron and artist, diving into the depths of emotion and thought. This type of reaction and relationship only occurs a few times during the run of the show and those nights are the gems.
We often times joke about bottling certain audiences up so that we can open them on more dull nights. Often times the actors of a show cannot read an audience due to their lack of noise or reaction to certain jokes that occur throughout the show. Usually quietness is a result of a more timid group whose laughs are stifled yet smiles are grand. One particular evening I was caught in the midst of this dilemma as an actor stood in the wings mouthing, “don’t they know they give us energy”! I did my best to reassure the actor that the show was going well and that they were just shy. Needless to say, by the end of act, two they had warmed up their laughing muscles.
It’s always a tricky game playing off of the audience verses trusting your instincts, but having a new crowd each night definitely gives a show a more creative challenge. This type of relationship is fluid and constantly changing providing new platforms to connect with each night. Just remember next time you go see a show, the actors and fellow patrons can hear you- so let our how you truly feel and experience it together.