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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Audience Participation, Yea or Nay?

Hi there,

I had a dream recently that I was on a tropical island. It was my birthday, my mother was there, and I was watching a male strip show. One of them dances off the stage and comes my way. As I try to shrink behind Mum, he goes to grab my hand to pull me onstage...then...wait a minute! None of that was a dream! Yes this really happened, and since this was Noumea I frantically repeated: 'Non Merci! Non Merci!' until the Chippendales wannabe targetted another hapless soul instead. So now you're probably wondering what I was doing at a strip show with my Mum in Noumea? Well that might have to remain a mystery because my actual topic for today is audience participation.
Awkward Stripper Photo courtesy of

I make my living onstage and it is one of my favourite places to be - but only when I feel I belong there (and being the object of a stripper's gyrations is more my idea of wrong place, wrong time). I often try to incorporate an element that includes the audience, whether it is encouraging clapping along, asking a question or two, or in some cases getting someone to join me onstage. I am all for breaking through the fourth wall - I think it is a music performer's job to engage the audience. But let's get back to the strippers...apart from a two minute sloppily choreographed opening sequence, every single part of their show consisted of dragging at least one audience member up to the stage to share the bump and grinding duties. They decimated the fourth wall with one kick from their underdressed quadriceps. If I have spent the time and money to experience professional entertainment I want to be entertained by the professionals, not drunken hens' party escapees.

I work in some bands where audience participation is considered on par with karaoke, far too 'cabaret' (said with a sneer) for some but I don't mind a bit of cheesy goodness as long as it is not the only ingredient on offer. What do you think?


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