Blame The audience

Convener(s): James Stenhouse

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  • I convened the session with the premise that audiences rarely get criticized and I’d like to give them some critical feedback.
  • I believe theatre is a collaboration between the performers and the audience and although the ultimate responsibility is with the artist I think the audience do have some of the responsibility and therefore might benefit from being told what they are doing wrong.
  • We then might move towards a way of helping audiences get better at what they do and therefore they might get more out of the performance.

The group discussed what we thought audiences are doing wrong; 

  • Not turning up (particularly bad at this)
  • Giving up too easily. There was some argument that if the work is bad then they have the right to give up (law of two feet and all that) so we decided to work on the premise that the work is good.
  • Being narrow minded, audiences making up there  minds before they even get to the theatre and not being prepared to be surprised (lots of us admitted being guilty of this) 

It was then discussed that as artists how on earth do we know if audiences feel this? Yes, they might be standing with their arms crossed but it doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying it. I suggested that audiences have a responsibility to know that if they stand with their arms crossed it might be destructive? But this may not be true? 

Ok so how do we help our audiences know what to do? 

I proposed that we review audiences on our websites?

I was asked exactly how we might review an audience? I wasn’t entirely sure but I intend to work on it and have a go.

Marketing of the show could prepare them adequately for what they might mneed to bring to the performance? The context, the venue itself, the bar can all play a part in preparing the audience member for the experience. Perhaps this is where artists need more influence so that they can try and have some effect on the audience before they arrive in the theatre itself?

Someone raised the question: Are audiences expecting too much from theatre? Friends on T.V is ok, it sometimes makes us laugh and we like it. Theatre that is ok and makes us laugh sometimes is criticized as being crap, it needs to be life changing or its rubbish. Is this unfair?

We then started to argue a little bit about the concept of Blaming the audience and whether this was a good idea. I don’t think we should blame the audience on bad work but perhaps we should feel more able to be critical for the sake of the audience more than anyone? 

It was mentioned that ‘The audience’ is a problematic phrase and that audiences are too wide and varied to be lumped together like this. Since we started debating the semantics of the posed question I thought it best to disband the session!