It never fails to amuse me the things I hear front of house from the audience. Last week I made a return visit to Chichester to work on Half A Sixpence again. The audiences there are hugely supportive and rightly proud of their beautiful theatre, but do like to give their, shall I say, rather forthright opinion!
Now those of you who know me well will agree I like to keep a low profile at the theatre. I take my seat at the last minute and always make a speedy exit from the auditorium. But last week I was stopped mid Olympic sprint. This very nice lady grabbed my arm, and whilst expressing her enjoyment of the evening, told me she thought it was great shame we had cut so many of the hit songs from the show.
Slightly confused I asked her which songs specifically did she mourn, to which she replied how she particularly missed I Could Have Danced All Night and The Rain In Spain… she even gave me a rather pitchy vocal rendition much to the merriment of the exiting punters! I politely reminded her that those songs were from My Fair Lady and not Half A Sixpence, but that I was grateful for the feedback and was happy she partly enjoyed the show.
This is by no means an exception…. once when my own father came to the press night of a rather challenging production I choreographed, his very first and only comment was that he liked the scenery! Ouch… And even yesterday when leaving a performance I overheard a mother asking her child if he enjoyed the show to which his response was “No, I didn’t, I hated it”! You can always count on children for honest opinions!
However my favourite moment of all was on the very first show I choreographed. A man armed with a clipboard (I kid you not) approached me in the interval of our first preview. With a great flourish he unclipped the A4 page filled with his personal critic on my work and handed it to me. After pealing myself from the floor from shock I watched him strut off ready to find his next victim of the creative team!! To my annoyance some of the notes were actually quite good and alarmingly useful though I of course didn’t want to let him know that! I still have no idea who he was and I’ve never seen him since! I wonder from time to time if The Phantom Critic will ever return. If you spot him lurking in a theatre foyer with half of Rymans in tow do give me warning! However after all these years of feedback and critical musings I am now always prepared for the worst, but secretly hope for the best! Oh and the final bit of good news is my dad liked Half A Sixpence beyond just the scenery! High praise indeed!!!!