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Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Intriguing and Elusive Meaning of Entertainment - With Reference to the Astounding 'Miss Behave’s Variety Nighty'

Although it seems like such a long time ago, a time of wearing t-shirts and contemplating ice cream, it was only last month that I meandered my way in the sunshine to The Roundhouse to see Miss Behave’s Variety Nighty.

As an avid fan of all things kooky and cabaret, I was looking forward to the evening at hand, but disappointed that as a poor student I could only afford the £10 ‘Restricted View’ tickets.

Firstly, if you have never stepped foot in The Roundhouse, it is certainly a must. The very scope of the auditorium is amazing. It feels both cavernous and warming, plush and sparse, a real dichotomy of architectural gems. You can see why it serves as both a venue for high energy, crowd enthused gigs, and as a space for both intimate theatre and spacious circus. Oh, and yes, it is round.

As the audience entered for the show you couldn’t help feel that little tingle of excitement that comes from the jovial murmur of a large group of people out for a good time. My companion and I were shown to our shared table by Miss Behave herself, as she wandered through her adoring onlookers squeezed elaborately into tight red PVC. “Table 9?” she enthused, “You’ll love it, great view!” And she wasn’t just wearing the mask of gracious hostess… It turned out my lowly ten quid had got us prime seats right at the edge of the stage. Not only that, but table service too! Never has a tenner been better spent on an evening of theatre!

Although we didn’t have the traditional ‘proscenium’ view, it only served to heighten our experience. When Dusty Limits sang, it seemed he sang only to me. When Miss Behave swallowed a sword, we knew it was no trick. When the stunning aerial artists performed, they swung above our heads with ease and without fear – the gorgeous trapeze artist even climbed down a rope right beside my companion and kissed her sweat-ily on the cheek before darting off, much to my jealousy.

It was a fabulously well-executed affair, with performative stage hands, amusing and unusual acts, and Miss Behave served as an extremely able and knowing hostess, encouraging the laughs and berating the slightly too noisy lads. (Poor boys, the PVC, the burlesque, the booze – it was all a bit much for them… That’s what you get for going out for ‘team building’.­)

Though, the one thing that intrigued me the most about this event was not how Lucifire, Queen of grotesque burlesque, managed to escape her literally blazing routine unscathed and without burning the building down, but a small note accompanying the programme…

To paraphrase, it read along the lines of, “There is no message to this show. If you leave entertained, we have done our job.” A standard sentiment, it seems, for the genre – after all, that’s entertainment! However for those who have decided to focus their academic study on the recent resurgence of cabaret, burlesque, variety and their affiliates (ahem. Me.) I find I cannot help but find the ‘message’. Even if none is intended, how can I not wonder at the queer identities on show, the play of gender and of sexuality. The very fact it is on a stage ‘means’ something to me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a jolly good old time watching the show. Perhaps it is thinking about these unintended, but nevertheless, always present meanings that makes it ‘entertaining’ for me personally?

In short, this leaves me wondering – in a Carrie Bradshaw style;
Does academia make you a bad audience for ‘entertainment’?


Joanne said...

Does academia make you a bad audience for 'entertainment'?

It does take me while to control my analytical mind when watching anything on stage. I have learned to watch it and then analyse afterwards otherwise I come out and realise that I watched the performance but did not take it in peroperly.

I do now find that if I am deconstructing a performance whilst I am watching it then it ususally means that I am not enjoying it.

In terms of 'entertainemnt' as you say, I have to be in the right mind and get rid of expectations.

So in short, yes I thnk that most of the time academia does make you a bad audeince for academia

Sam Trotman said...

does this apply to music and gigs?

I never critically deconstruct a gig but i do if i see performance at a music night.

Sam Trotman said...

ps i think acadademia might be the wrong term but an interest and research of work makes me a better audience member as entertainment can be just as layered as an artwork, can't it?

Carly said...

Yes, I like to think it is or can be as layered as 'art'! I find it so interesting that at M.B.V.N. they had actively made a point of saying, "there is no point" as if to discourage or as if they were almost 'looking down' on analysis/research/deconstruction etc...

Why? I'm not sure that part of my brain turns off anymore! Of course, I was entertained, it was fabulous! But it meant more than just a man on a rope, a woman swallowing a sword, 3 men in bowler hats...

Artsadmin said...

i would agree that it is odd to tell your audience how to interpret work