Described as a “panto play in one act”, Keith Lipscombe’s “Captive Audience” features 4 willing actors, and a whole cast of unwitting ones.
Alfie has, at the request of his children apparently, installed the latest “must have” home entertainment system – a live audience.
Talking at us, but not to us, Alfie (Kevin Evans) and Bea (Di Wyman) discuss the need for an obedient studio audience in your living room, prepared to laugh, clap, and even boo on request. There’s a neat little discussion on audience member types – covering why you’d like a mix of the clever and the dim (the clever lead the laughing, but the dim clap louder) and how to dispose of the “undesirable” critic (thank you for the knowing look, Kevin “writes about shows at A Small Mind At The Theatre” Evans… although one considers oneself a reviewer, not a critic ;)…) These are great moments for regular theatregoers, although it may go over the heads of those less familiar to being an audience member.
Charlie (Juliet O’Connor) doesn’t appear to approve of Alfie’s new toy, although it’s quickly discovered that it’s less the idea of the audience that bothers her – more the fact that it’s a second hand one, which doesn’t match her new Waitrose lifestyle. She fears it will impact on her new relationship with Delia Dumas (Angela Mayes), that she has carefully cultivated by playing golf and buying copious amounts of green tea, which will in turn, she fears, prevent her from being welcomed by the Operatic Society.
Captive Audience has an interesting concept – from jibes about social media and the “me” generation, it feels topical, but doesn’t really descend into anything too political or hard-hitting which would take away from the comedy. It almost feels like Lipscombe has a strong feeling on the subject of modern, selfie-obsessed narcissism but doesn’t quite get it all the way across. The ending was a little peculiar, and those who don’t know The Pirates of Penzance will find themselves unable to keep up their given role of “compliant audience member”.
Despite this being a rehearsed reading, the pace was good, no doubt helped by the strong cast – the stand out being the always very watchable Juliet O’Connor as Charlie. Her looks to her second-hand audience were perfect, as was her “singing”. Captive Audience is witty, and, yes, a little panto-like in terms of audience participation; it would be interesting to see it performed as a full production, however, as prop and script juggling did cause a few problems, and we almost lost a few of the gags in the process.
A funny piece of theatre, with insider jokes and the hint of a serious subject.
Performance: Thu 24 May 2018, The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton (Rehearsed Reading)
Becki is a theatre lover originally from Birmingham. She founded On Stage Northants in 2017, and is passionate about promoting Northampton performing arts. She also works for Royal & Derngate as Marketing and Press Assistant. Can usually be found behind the scenes, and occasionally in front of them too. Becki also blogs at StageyRebel