What makes certain shows so special ?

Barely one week in, and I’m not sure that I would call it fringe fatigue as such, but I am aware that it can be hugely overwhelming seeing so many  spectacular shows in such a short space of time that it can make reviewing shows really tricky…

I am so incredibly grateful that I live on the doorstep of the world’s largest, most impressive and eclectic arts festival. I have to constantly remind myself that this month of seeing so much world class talent is pretty rare, and try and rate each individual show on its own merits and on its own unique style. This becomes difficult I find, once we have seen a few circus or physical theatre shows and I catch myself sometimes looking at someone standing on someone’s head, or performing a intricate aerial trick and not having the awestruck wonder that others may be experiencing.

Tonight I found myself seated infront of some amazingly talented performers and I was almost bored. I can totally appreciate the skill, the effort and time that has gone into making the production – and I was questioning what was making me feel this way – have I seen too many shows ? Am I suffering fatigue ? Am I overloaded ? Then I realised it’s as much about what energy the performers are giving out as they are taking –  what makes a show special is the ability of the audience to give and receive, and connect with the performers on any level. Much of the magic of the fringe is the smaller venues, or the spaces that allow lines to be crossed. Tonight’s performance was slick and uber professional but also felt cold- interaction was lacking, smiles appeared forced and I felt like I could have been any old face, sat amongst the viewers – which infact I was.

The beauty of much of the children’s theatre and circus we have been seeing this past week is that the boundaries between audience and performer are fluid – they are pretty much crossed in every show I’ve seen. Children are invited to shout out, to get on stage, share their ideas, sing songs – performers run through the audience, spray us with water, ask us our names…..the energy is shared, performers smile – if something is tricky – you can see the concentration on their faces – if something goes wrong, they try it again. Spontaneous heckling from a child is fully embraced and celebrated. That’s what I love, that’s what makes this all so special…

I admit it’s easier in a children’s show to share the energy, and some genre’s obviously lend themselves to the blurring of boundaries also, but it’s the simple smiles, the touches of humour, the personalities shining through – that’s what makes a show special, the performers who feel like friends….


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