AUDIENCE REVIEW | Matinee 30 Jan

This review took place at the Matinee performance on Saturday the 30th of January, 2016 during an audience of BABY by Doppelgangster. Co-produced by MKA | Theatre of New Writing. Presented in association with VAULT Festival.

Why perform a matinee, we often ask ourselves? Why perform twice – on a day, and at the time of day, on that day, that one might otherwise spend sideways on a settee, watching Elvis movies, and dining on last night’s pizza – we often ask ourselves? And some days we continue to often ask ourselves, often, whilst face to faces with an audience. Perhaps it is unfair to review a matinee audience, given that they are suffering as much as us. But what if the opposite is true? Is this an unrivalled opportunity? A gift? Regardless, this is a different crowd, we presume, to that found at night, and certainly they look different, seem to smell less of alcohol, and carry the literal baggage of day travellers.

All these are but contrivances when compared to the ultimate coup de théâtre – a classical disruption from Front of House manager, as she forgets that the house opens only five minutes before show time, and tells us that we open ten minutes earlier. A short discussion later, the house is again closed, and our anticipation of the audience begins anew.

The afternoon’s spectating is framed by the most peculiar of beginnings. Following the opening of the doors – a well worn but completely perfect set-up – there are over ninety sexidecimal seconds of empty seating bank, before a single audience member enters, unaccompanied. The effect is stunning, disquieting and more than a little upsetting, for the entire, or ‘both’, cast! We confess now that we spoke amongst ourselves in this chasmic moment and discussed if it was best simply to leave right then and call it a ‘matinee’.And as is the way of such things; such thrilling spectatorial essays; such hair raising, beholdant reckonings; such as it is at the very moment we decide to call it quits, that then comes the first – of some, thank god -, and then another, and then another, and soon what can easily be described as a small assemblage has assembled. Now that they have arrived, they are nothing short of pure unadulterated proximity!

There is one child in the audience, complete with parent-in-tow. There are a number of adults in evidence too and without the camouflage of kids to explain their presence. Tom Payne’s father-in-law, a right wing, self-identifying Tory man, is a critical onlooker and has no difficulty in the potentially anti-capitalist content of the work; finding great depth in the more literary and narrative parts of the play. Tom’s three-year-old son spends much of the time on some sort of gaming device, but as the volume is muted – or he is on headphones – it contributes to, or at least in no way distracts from, the work of the other audience members. It’s one of those simultaneously violent and gentle moments that are becoming so typical of a Doppelgangster audience. Tom’s wife seems distracted at times but when called upon to applaud at the end of the show is unparalleled in her vigour and commitment. A group of invited guests from Vivienne Westwood and Climate Revolution challenge the very notion of what a live audience can be, by spending much of the show taking photographs and talking in hushed whispers in response to the sight of a shocking revelation that occurs about eight scenes into the play. For theatregoers in only their first week of a new show, this is a stand out turnout indeed.

But now to the very heart of it, the nature of the thing, the power of the audience; and we wish to say very little of it as to say too much is to give away the singular experience that is being watched by, listened to and analysed live from the Saturday 30th Matinee audience of Baby by Doppelgangster. If there is a narrative, and that’s the biggest ‘if’ ever, if ever an if was bigger than any other if, it’s the narrative of a group of people who see a live performance work at the Vault Festival in London. Perhaps they understand that it is about a polar bear and then also a man. And for almost entirely different reasons – and we fear we’ve already given too much away – this reading resonates with us as performers, for almost all of the seventy or so minutes that the watching takes place for. Resulting in one of the most powerful, perturbing and time-based spectatorial effects that we have ever been subjected by.

All in all, they are a bit quiet – perhaps suffering the effects of labour that comes with attending a matinee viewing – and at times their work feels rushed. (Ed. Update Feb 4th: Then again, it goes to show sometimes you have no idea what’s going on for them, as having spoken to one of the attendees since, they’re still puzzling over the meaning of the piece, so no lack of attention it turns out!)

Also, someone leaves a scarf behind but we think may be from the night before.

Reviewers: Tom Payne PhD & Tobias Manderson-Galvin MWrPerf