Some years ago, I listened to a talk with theatre maker Daniel Bye, and there was something he said that struck a chord with me: Isn’t it odd that we invite large groups of people into a theatre space, dim the lights and then completely ignore them for a couple of hours? This made me think about ways of acknowledging the audience in forms of theatre that do not claim to be participatory or interactive in any obvious way. At the end of the day, theatre is for the audience, something that’s easy to forget.
In Sandman we put this into practice in various ways. First of all, the house lights remain on, though dimmed, so that I can see the audience. Second, I maintain an awareness of the audience watching me in everything I do; in fact, I do it for the audience, all of them, the entire auditorium. Third, the woman who appears on stage, visibly nervous and full of trepidation, looks at spectators, silently pleading for them to be sympathetic, supportive, help her. Fourth, the characters that emerge from her body cast the audience in the role of another character, a confidante, someone to whom these characters tell something about themselves, what happened, what they thought and felt. All spectators become that ‘other’, listening character.
But most importantly, I use direct audience address, make eye contact and extend body and voice towards spectators. The Jewish-Hungarian playwright and theatre director George Tabori called theatre an act of love, whilst acknowledging how embarrassing it was to talk about love. I feel embarrassment as I’m writing this, but ultimately to me acting/performing is an act of love, an act of giving yourself to the audience in the hope that they will accept your invitation to share this moment with you…