Annie Rigby

What might be the spectators’ responsibility towards a work’s ‘success’?

Part 1 of my answer:
Here is a speech from Best in the World.

We thought a lot about the audience’s responsibility, and their potential, when we made Best in the World. We want, in every performance of the show, to create the best audience in the world. We give them motivational bananas to help if their energy flags. We give them advice from a sports psychologist on achieving success. We get them to cheer on the next audience; their applause recorded and passed on. We look after them, basically. So I’m going to take this opportunity to be a little less kind.

Credits: Best in the World, Unfolding Theatre, writer, Carina Rodney, performer, Alex Elliott, director, Annie Rigby, sound recording, Andy Playford.

Part 2 of my answer:

Dear audience,

You’re a funny one, aren’t you? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sat within your warm huddle many times. I like hanging out with you. But I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round you.

I’ve sat with you and watched some proper bobbins onstage. And then what do you do? You get up and give it a bloody standing ovation. Then other times, I’ve been blown away by what we’ve seen, and so I get on my feet to do the standing and cheering thing, and you’re all sitting, looking at your shoes, giving a bit of limp applause.

Then you (and I – yes, I’m happy to share the blame) go out into the bar and we say some opinions about what the people onstage did right and did wrong. But the more I listen to you, the more I reckon it’s nothing at all to do with what the people did onstage. It’s to do with you. Whether you’re in a good mood. Whether you met the performer once and really liked her. Whether something once happened to you that makes you feel instantly connected to that speech the main character makes at the really important part of the show.

Or, whether you missed your bus on the way to the show, and had to run in the rain to get there. Whether you’ve had one glass of wine too many (or one too few). Whether you’re a bit sleepy and wish you were at home on the sofa. Whether the things you think about the world don’t stack up alongside the things the people onstage are saying about the world.

So, I’m not saying stop doing what you’re doing. I don’t think that’s possible anyway. But, remember, you’re a player too in this whole thing. You can’t snooze and score. So step up. Believe in yourself. Because… what’s that hippy motivational phrase?… You only get out what you put in. That’s it.

That’s all I wanted to say. Here’s to cheering together.

See you soon, I hope.

The director

Annie Rigby is a theatre director. She is Artistic Director of Unfolding Theatre.