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Theatrical Moments

September 7, 2011

It’s those that keep us coming back for more. The ‘perfect’ moment is when audience and actors are completely synchronised, the real world fades away and all that is left is cast and stage, lost in the moment. It’s rare, but it happens.

Equally rare, but infinitely stranger, is when audience and cast take joint responsibility for their mutual success in completing a performance. This weirdness happened last to me two weeks ago, at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park. As previously recorded here, my first attempt to catch the hit of the summer, “Crazy For You” was foiled before the show event started – but the blow very much softened by the observation of my fellow audience members stoically waiting to be dismissed by the stage manager.

I suspect more than a few were present at the performance I chose as a replacement. This time, it was ‘mixed signs.’ Wet as I walked to the tube to go to the theatre, dry by the time I arrived, and dry (except for the seat edges – take a bag to sit on is my advice) for the first 20 minutes. Then it rained a bit. As in a chilly shower that came and went in the space of a single dance number. Twenty minutes later it happened again – lighter this time – and as the second act reached its last 10 minutes the audience was congratulating itself on choosing a dry, if blustery and overcast, afternoon.

And then the same dancers who had previously been rained on came back on stage… and promptly got rained on again. This time there was no let-up, and as the show reached its dramatic conclusion in the Western desert town of Deadrock, we got the full Hollywood cinematic treatment of ‘soaked hero kissing soaked heroine’ while the locals cheered.

Each dance became little more than “going gently through the steps” as the wooden stage acquired a skidpan surface… yet the cast continued, laughing… and we in the audience laughed with them. There was no hint that anybody wanted to leave – the cast took their bows as choreographed, the audience stayed (with one or two very senior – and rightful exceptions) huddled beneath any available rainwear… and we all joined in the final chorus, cast and audience united.

You can’t capture that moment anywhere, it was unique, special and will no doubt live long in the memories of all present. As I said in my previous entry, whatever is thrown at the British, we still have a special fortitude that spineless political classes can’t bury, and I think that’s wonderful. In fact, the only question that remains for me still is simply, “if the cast is soaked, as is the audience, and we are all cold and wet; if the performances were that good, is it inappropriate to shout, ‘encore’?”

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