Going to watch a live performance is a passion of mine. Music, dance, theater, to me it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it done before, I think it is incredible to watch something take place in front of your eyes that has never happened that way before. The performers may have rehearsed a piece a thousand times prior to the time I get to see it, but knowing that I am the among the only people who get to see this particular version (unless of course it is being taped) is a real thrill to me. Sometimes things run exactly as they are planned, and other times because of circumstances, things change on stage. These changes could be when an actor trips on stage (luckily this did not happen in any of the performances we saw in London) and watching as they improve through the scenario, other on stage changes happen when actors react to their surroundings. For example when we saw “As You Like It” at the Globe Theater two of the actors in the cast in particular took note of individual audience members. I specifically remember when Jaques commented about schoolboys and made a motion to the students in their uniforms sitting on the side of the stage.
Another performance that I attended that included a large amount of audience interaction was when I saw the dance group StopGap performing at Watch This Space. Especially recently I have seen a lot of contemporary/modern dance performances that involve audience participation/interaction. StopGap did not look for participation, however they improved several times throughout the show. They would randomly pick out members of the crowd and imitate their poses. The dancers also randomly sat next to audience members, trying to get a reaction. When I see pieces like this it makes you realize how much work goes into a performance. Not only are the dancers/actors/performers required to react to what is on stage and what they rehearsed, but additionally to their surroundings.
The other performances we saw primarily stuck to the script, mainly because it was not in the nature of “Arcadia” or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to improvise or react to the audience during performance. But even still, we were fortunate enough to see all different styles of performances in an array of venues. For me I think the venue of the performance can completely change everything. StopGap performing inside the National Theater would not have had the same feeling, nor would the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing at the Watch This Space. The large orchestra in the enormous and beautiful Royal Albert Hall really set a grand scene, something that very few halls could have done.
I briefly mentioned this in my previous post, but the Theater and Performing Arts Exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum included an entire segment on sets and venues. It shows how important this aspect is to a performance, and sometimes one that I feel is overlooked. With the exception of StopGap (and I guess some might argue Shakespeare’s performances at the Globe) we saw very few site-specific pieces. I think site-specific performances are extremely interesting, and although I enjoyed visiting the beautiful theaters across the city, I am also glad for Watch This Space, where I was able to see performances that were specifically designed for that area.
I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see so many incredible (and sometimes not so incredible) performances, and I am already planning return trips into the city to see more performances, theaters, and site-specific performances.