When I go to watch local theatre or performances I tend to blog about them – a review/commentary on the play and my experience of it. Also, I think it is worth talking about exceptional local events and venues to spread the word, as it were. Nothing spreads success quite like word of mouth. However, I recently saw a local performance and did not blog about it. Why? The play was good. There were some very funny lines and well choreographed and executed scenes. An enjoyable evening out was had by all.
But – a big but that deserves to be a paragraph starter – there was a glaring issue that prevented the audience’s total appreciation of what they were watching and prevented them from telling the performers that they were enjoying what they saw.
The performance was of a play by Oscar Wilde that was written in three acts, as many are, of course. The play was performed in three parts with two intervals. The problem? The audience did not know there were going to be two intervals. Why is that a problem? When the stage lights dimmed for the first time, a scant 20 minutes into the performance, none of us knew it was for an interval; it felt like the end of a scene and we waited in silence for the next one.
When an uncomfortably long scene change had passed and no new scene began, the house lights came up and then there was some half hearted clapping by an audience that was vacating the theatre in some confusion and hovering around the bar wondering why there had been no notification of the two interval situation or why the first one had come so soon.
After a 20 minute interval we duly made our way back into the theatre and the play resumed. I and a few others in the audience had, by this point, gleaned that there was going to be a second interval in the play so when the second one came around we few clapped and attempted to create a proper gap in the proceedings. Eventually those slower folks in the audience cottoned on and the second interval was slightly more successful than the first.
The end of the play was good and overall I think people went home happy; however, there was that lingering feeling of something not quite right. Not knowing about the two intervals, and they being so long in themselves, had left the audience-actors relationship irrevocably affected by it.
There is nothing wrong with having a three act play with a two part interval, but tell people about it first. That way the audience has no lingering guilt at its lack of reaction and the players and everyone else involved in putting on the show have no lingering doubt over the success of the performance.
Accept that these days we are pre-conditioned to expect one interval somewhere near the middle of a play, and communicate when you are going off grid. Tell the audience to expect something out of the ordinary and they will thank you for it accordingly.
No one enjoys the end of an act with no applause.
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