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What Audiences Said

This page is a space for audience surveys in summary (words, pictures, charts, tables), insightful short comments overheard or recorded on survey forms, good tweets in quotation, and the like.

The Scottish Play. The HandleBards. March 27th 2015.

Audience Survey in Summary

The first thing to strike the eye on the Handlebards’ website (as at 17th April 2015) is the reality of towing set, props and costumes uphill under a lowering sky on a bicycle. Not only is this so exhausting that the hapless cyclist has no time to look at the lovely undulating green environment that surrounds him, but the unloving sky is about to chuck bucketfuls of water at him, too. So represented, the Handlebards hardly need say more to their potential audiences about their extreme green credentials –but in case anyone is interested they refer to having avoided 50.2 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by travelling by bike, and to having won the Edinburgh Festival Sustainable Practice Award last year. Not only that, they engage their potential audiences in eco-theatrically conscious behaviour: they suggest that spectators could share a car, cycle to the show, or hand in old bike parts for use in the show as props. The question is, do such eco-cues (off stage as well as on it throughout the performance) have the effect of connecting the collective spectatorial consciousness to the ecosystem?

Of Chattering Teeth and Bats in the Abbey...

Cue, the brief audience survey undertaken during the interval of the performance of the Scottish Play on 27th March 2015 at Glastonbury. Asked directly if they thought this performance could be described as eco-theatre, 17 of the 22 people who responded to the survey said yes. Asked if they thought the Abbey (manicured ruins open to the heavens) was a good performance site for the play, 20 people said yes, and the rest said only no because they were cold or worried about possible rainfall (so, strictly speaking, they were well aware of the effects of the ecosystem on the human body even if such effects were not appreciated). Comments on the performance site in this survey largely communicate excitement, enjoyment, and absorption in the experience: ‘creepy’, ‘eerie’, ‘in the dark’, ‘atmospheric’, ‘good ambience’, ‘great acoustics’,’ like a castle’ and ‘Did you see the bat flying around during the interval?’ Put together such comments suggest that this site put ‘nature’ on the stage as few indoor productions could, and also, all-importantly, that for all except the small number whose teeth were chattering, it added significantly to their enjoyment, potentially generating eco-theatrical memories for some time to come.

Enjoyment, Innovation, Shifts in Perspective...

Cue enjoyment. A theatrical event can be as green as it likes but if people don’t enjoy it,forget eco-(or any other kind of) consciousness. Asked whether they enjoyed the performance style of the Handlebards and if so what in particular they had enjoyed, three themes stood out in the replies. First, people had fun. Frequently-used words included: fun, amusing, invigorating, humorous, playful, engaging, ‘love it!’, ‘love the style of humour’, ‘loved Lady MacBeth and the fishing line’; and, relatedly, people expressed their admiration of the actors in phrases such as ‘brilliant timing’, ‘brilliantly flexible acting’, and ‘talented performance’. Constrained resources (you can’t carry too much on four bikes) are well-recognised as the mother of invention (in this case perhaps well described as eco-invention), leading to the second point. People thought the production innovative (and this enhanced their enjoyment), as reflected in words such as: ingenious, inventive, fresh, innovative, crazy, completely different, startlingly different, quirky, original, and ‘wondrous strange and amusing’. Thirdly, this performance of the production delivered a shift in perception. 16 people (of the 22 who responded) who had seen the play before responded that they now saw it in a different light. Several thought the injection of so much humour enhanced their understanding of the characters. One said: ‘The evil in Macbeth comes out stronger than the weakness.’ The shift in perception discussed in the feedback forms was not the realisation that the Scottish Play could be delivered as a piece of eco-theatre. (That was simply taken for granted, in the open air, in Glastonbury Abbey.) Allowing one respondent to speak for the rest: ‘Didn’t realise that [the Scottish Play] has comic moments but it does.’

The Theatrical Power of Eco-Theatre...

Overall, then, my interpretation of spectatorial commentary in aggregate is that the eco-theatrical framing at work on March 27th produced the very special physicality of this production: chill; darkening sky, wind, clouds, atmospheric stone escarpments; flapping tent walls, beany blood clots, bike-pump-driven bubbling cauldron, shuttlecocks hanging on an old inner-tube, bats, hats; beautifully choreographed whirligig of four actors sprinting to get to the next role switch. All that and more, put together, produced a powerful shift in perception: ‘from tragedy to absurdity’ and back again.


Audience Surveys


Handlebards - Four Answers in Summary


Audiences WordCloud, 18th April 2015

HandleBards by Taxgedo