Thursday, November 14, 2013

Audience Participation

I saw Rocky Horror Show at Turun kaupunginteatteri yesterday. I don't have much to say about it. I went there because I live close to the theatre. When an opportunity to see a new musical next door presents itself, I tend to take it. But going in already, I was quite sure I wouldn't much enjoy the show. I was right. Not a new favourite.

Rocky Horror Show is, as most musical fans know, famous for its audience participation. The production I just saw puts plenty of emphasis on that. The story makes no sense, and while the music is catchy, the most exciting part of the show is getting to take part in it. You can throw things onstage and shout at the characters. There's a sort of a script for the audience to follow, when to throw and what to shout. In Turun kaupunginteatteri, a participation guide can be found in the souvenir programme, and they even have video screens with instructions around the stage.

Turun kaupunginteatteri has been saying Rocky Horror is famous for it's "genuine audience interaction", but I'm unsure if it could be called that – the audience is, after all, following a script too. But genuine or not, the interaction is crucial for the show. I don't think it could survive without the audience doing their part. I guess most people don't buy their tickets to see a piece of theatre, they go in for an experience.

Finns are known as a shy people, but last night at least, the audience played along and even seemed to be having some fun doing so. Not me, though. I doubt I'll ever be a Rocky Horror person. While I think it's a fun opportunity for outgoing people that the audience has their own part to play, I don't feel comfortable with shouting obscenities and throwing things in theatre myself. I prefer sitting quietly and observing the events. Trying to start standing ovations every now and then is quite enough excitement for me.

But what if this isn't a matter of shyness, after all, but of practice?

Maybe even I could get into a proper audience participation mood if I got to try it out during musicals I know and love first? I'm proposing that we don't let the casts of famous shows have all the fun by themselves anymore. Here are audience participation directions for three popular musicals. Share them with your fellow audience members, too!

Les Misérables:
  • Whenever Jean Valjean’s name is mentioned, shout “bread!”
  • When Javert is mentioned, shout “law!”
  • Greet Enjolras by loudly yelling “Enjolr-ASS!” every time he appears onstage.
  • Take your own yellow ticket of leave with you. Follow Valjean’s example and tear it in a dramatic manner.
  • Take some glittering confetti with you to throw in the air during Stars.
  • When Javert appears onstage in his undercover outfit, you can go undercover too: put on your cap. Feel free to look shifty and suspicious.
  • Shout “kiss already!” every time there’s a long glance in between Jean Valjean and Javert.
  • During the Wedding, blow soap bubbles to celebrate the happy couple.

Sweeney Todd
  • Every time Anthony appears onstage, shout "stalker!"
  • Whenever Mrs. Lovett is baking or pies are mentioned, throw a bit of flour in the air.
  • During My Friends, slowly raise your own safety razor or ladyshaver.
  • When flowers are mentioned in Wait, feel free to throw some onstage. Not restricted to daisies and gillyflowers, but no cactuses, please.
  • During the beginning of A Little Priest, shout "get it!?" after Mrs. Lovett's every line. Boo until Sweeney finally gets it.
  • Uh-oh, it's raining blood! Cover your head with your favourite penny dreadful.
  • Mrs. Lovett is dreaming about a life by the sea. Show your support by wearing your sunglasses.
  • Shout "Benjamin Barker!" together with Sweeney. The more dramatic, the better.

Fiddler on the Roof
  • Blow your party horn constantly until If I Were a Rich Man finally, finally stops playing in your head.

Photo by Robert Seger.


  1. Your suggestions are hilarious. I would definitely want to do the audience participation for Les Misérables. That sound so much fun!

  2. Ei vitsit, nauran täällä ääneen! Loistavia ehdotuksia! Ehdottakaa TT:n henkilökunnalle, että tosta tulis hyvä uusi yleisötyön muoto: muutama esitys näillä ohjeilla, kaikki sais osallistua ja joko ennen tai jälkeen vois keskustella, miltä tuntui ja oliko hauskaa. :)

  3. Osallistava Les Mis voisi kyllä olla aika jännä! Hauskoja ideoita!

    Ja Rocky Horrorista, jotenkin tuntuu että elokuvateatterissa se osallistuminen voisi jopa toimia paremmin. Jos Orionissa järjestetään näytös myös ensi syksynä, menen kokeilemaan.

    1. Jep, voisi ajatella, että elokuvaa katsoessa yleisö tekee mitä tekee täysin itsensä vuoksi – ehkä fiilis voisi leffateatterissa olla aidompi kuin Turun tuotannossa, jossa ainakin minulle tuli sellainen olo, että lavalla odotetaan yleisön esittävän oma roolinsa juuri tietyllä tavalla...