Money and audiences

by Michael

So my previous post this morning was supposed to be about Money, but I got distracted and ended up displaying huge ignorance by semi-defending a book I haven’t read for at least ten years from the well-considered thoughts of two people whose theatre practice I admire – if sometimes from a distance.

I wanted to tell you about Shunt’s new show, Money, and the peculiar nature of the audience who helped create a performance of it last Friday.

A note on the show first: unlike (m)any of Shunt’s previous shows, Money is not ashamed to tell the story – a story based on L’Argent by Emile Zola. I haven’t read L’Argent, but I have recently finished L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece) and strongly recognised Zola’s hand in the narrative. On the surface, however, I didn’t detect what Shunt had intended to add to the story they were telling, and I think that is important in adaptations – stories are vehicles, even for their creators, and vehicles have to go somewhere (by definition) and the destination is always different.

I must mention the extraordinarily beautiful and overwhelming design of the show, which seems to be the its showcase centrepiece. You might almost think that the show exists to show off the design. And there’s nothing wrong with that, although I think you can do that and add depth to a story as well. Maybe it was me who was superficial and missed the depth while I was enjoying being manoeuvred through and around and up and down the grinding gears of the Machine.

So, aware that it might be hard to know from what I’ve written so far, I will say that I did enjoy the show and not just because it was nice to a) be in a theatre again and b) see old friends and erstwhile collaborators doing good things in said theatre.

But this was a Friday night, late show, and apparently notorious for those members of the banking world who temporarily descend into the Shunt experience looking for what? Money, I suppose.

There was a mean streak underscoring the audience that night. In an immersive / interactive show such as Shunt are wont to make, it has to be acknowledged that the audience has more responsibility for the performance than in a sit-down, shut-up and watch type theatre. It seems some of our lovely banking fraternity / sorority regularly decide to get high (on what, I couldn’t tell you) before seeing the show and come with the intention of pushing the show. I suspect it has been recommended to them as a surreal experience, one possibly enhanced by chemical consumption, and so they come with the expectation of tripping.

They are certainly not a BAC audience, who know their responsibilities and take them just a little bit too seriously (I think most of them want to be part of each theatre-making company as professional or maybe consultant ‘audience’, which I find suspicious and unentertaining) for my liking [disclaimer: I haven’t been to BAC for a few years so tell me off if I’m mistaken or just out of date]. No, these bankers want to take advantage of their invitation to interact and see if they can push the show over.

They are like children whose play inevitably reaches a state of breaking toys for no apparent reason.

And like small children, the b(w)ankers’ concern is entirely for their own entertainment. They regard the show as being a private entertainment, in fact, with the other audience members performing their role as the offended ‘straights’, outraged at the wankers’ behaviour. What a hoot!