Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry

I received a very nice email yesterday. Last week, I wrote a blog post for work about the 21st anniversary of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge (thanks to the Horns for putting me up, by the way!). Someone who works at the Gurdon wrote to say thank you, that they had enjoyed the piece and that the little audio vox pop about scientists’ 21st birthdays I posted with it had actually made her laugh.

Hogarth etching of the various reactions of a theatre audience

“The inside of a theatre and the reactions of different parts” by Hogarth (credit: Wellcome Images)

Perhaps because I developed (initially, at least) as a writer in theatre, I do find myself craving a response to the things I write. Applause, laughter, sometimes a murmur of recognition – these sounds let you know that what you wrote was working for the audience. Even silence could be rewarding: the sweets stayed wrapped, the coughing magically ceased and the audience hardly dared to breathe they were so caught up in the dramatic tension.

Working online and in print is all silent, of course, and in this silence it is impossible to distinguish admiration, apathy or absence of an audience at all.

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