The Old Image of Being Loved is an interesting concept but doesn’t quite live up to expectations. This performance is a theatrical event where the audience is invited to help co-create the show in real-time, blurring the lines between the stage and the auditorium. The company attempt to merge the experience of watching and taking part in the production. A theatrical workshop, so to speak, where memories are made. The difficulty with these performances is that they rely entirely on audience participation to be a success, and if the audience isn’t willing to participate, the atmosphere just ends up being… well, awkward.
You can tell that members of the audience do want to join in, but the silence, sideway glances and bum-shuffling goes to show how they are either too afraid, too tired after a long day at work or simply unsure of exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. The clock ticking away at the side of the stage makes it uncomfortably clear just how much time is wasted waiting for someone to stand up.
Offerings of wine and cake entice a handful to step foot on the stage (nothing like a bit of food and alcohol to break the ice!). And, the select few that volunteer to share the spotlight do make the experience more pleasurable too. In an endeavour to create a collective memory, everyone is asked to write a proposal on a post-it note for a memorable scene that we are to look back on in 20 years time. Despite the slow start, the show does become more interactive as it goes on. The memorable scene ends up being everyone trying to throw scrunched up paper into the mouth of one of the production team.
The notion of working with and creating bonds with strangers in the theatrical realm is admittedly quite a beautiful one. However, the almost laborious effort to encourage audience participation is unfortunately rather saddening and simply illuminates how lacking in imagination we are in a technological age where everything is force-fed to us via the internet. What I take from this is: we need to rediscover our imagination and we need to stop being so afraid of joining in. Although the idea is fun and refreshing, the enterprise just doesn’t work without any confidence or insight from the audience.