Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Frayn’s script for Audience is a sparky, if ultimately brief and flippant satire on audiences, and this production makes a fair job of recreating the stereotypes it presents. It could, perhaps, be tighter – while no mistakes were made, it did feel as if the talented young cast lacked direction at points.
Comedy legend Michael Frayn’s 45-minute ‘Audience’ pits the real audience – us – against an opposing mirror-version. After we have trooped in, so do they, and sit opposite us, discussing us as if we were an imaginary play. The gags, as the characters both interact and think out loud, stem from the audience stereotypes that are unveiled to show the foibles of the theatregoing. Key to the satire is the presence of the godlike Playwright or Director character, who starts off nonchalant but is soon angrily exhorting the ‘audience’ to pay attention to his ‘play’.
Production values were low, but the concept is a simple enough one to pull off without flashiness, and the music at the beginning and end neatly and unobtrusively framed the performance, which was the same – neat and unobtrusive. The ensemble cast were slick and their performance was mistake-free.
While performing a piece by a master such as Frayn must be intimidating for a drama-student cast, the ensemble could perhaps have stamped their individuality more on the performance. They did at times seemed to lean – understandably – on the known quantity of Frayn’s excellent script, rather than take the more risky but ultimately perhaps more rewarding path of exploring their own interactions with the audience, even down to the level of knowing looks and eye contact, that are so crucial in a play so explicitly about the audience’s relationship with the performance.
In a play this self-aware, there was much more room for a sense of self-awareness from the cast, and I think the audience – the real audience – picked up on this lack, and never really allowed a connection with their mirror counterparts fully to develop. If this had been different, this production could have scored much higher.