I’m on a roller coaster and it’s too late to get off
“I liken the lights going down as the play begins for the first time to being strapped into a roller coaster and just as it hits the first hill remembering that I hate roller coasters, but it’s too late to get off the ride.” I felt sick again.
I’d opened the programme to Henry and Alice: Into the Wild, written by Michele Riml, and had started reading an interview with the playwright before the curtains rose. I was meant to be relaxing, not thinking about when my first show goes on stage. (Stage is a relative term, mine will be a small platform that slightly raises the actors above the audience.)
Just that one sentence brought it all back to me. The first time I’d listened to my first sketch being performed on the London fringe. Feeling sick and nervous. But fortunately for me, that sketch went down well. The play is a whole different beast.
But I couldn’t stop myself from reading more of the interview. And it just got worse. “I think in a comedy you naturally pay attention to when the audience is laughing or when they are not.” Ohmigod. What if the audience is silent? Or some kind of nervous, polite laughter? (Do audiences even do that?)
Then she said: “You can feel and even see when an audience is shifting and shuffling and not engaged.” Shifting? Shuffling? Can you shuffle in seat? But then I calmed down with her words: “It can be a great cue to tighten things up.” Yes, tighten things up! Get a positive experience out of a negative…
Just when I thought I had finished the play, I realised there could well be an editing job in the pipeline – and that’s the way to look at the show. Naturally, I hope it’s only tweaks and that any great clangers (or in my case, great groaning gags) have gone in rehearsals. Oh, and by the way, Into the Wild was fab. A great comedy and well worth catching if it’s showing in your town. No shifting or shuffling. We were engaged.