I was very dubious at first when it came to taking the show indoors, more so because of the set. Our set is not your average touring set, it’s absolutely massive. To transfigure from the freedom of Regent’s Park to the captive nature of an indoor theatre was something I just couldn’t get my head around. I couldn’t see how they could maintain the beauty and the scale of the Open Air Theatre. That was, of course, before I entered the New Victoria Theatre in Woking and discovered that it is exactly what Jon Bausor (Designer) has achieved. The “island”, maintains the depth and vastness that was created at Regent’s Park; the cleverly positioned gauze and lighting, together with a spectacular backcloth makes the environment seem just as endless. It’s a jaw dropping moment for the audience when they enter.
Audiences differ from theatre to theatre, performance to performance, but I think it’s fair to pay particular attention to the difference in audience between that of Regent’s Park and the indoor theatres that the show will visit on tour. Regent’s Park in itself is an experience, regardless of what production may be on at the time you visit. Being outdoors offers the audience a rare sense of freedom and control; they are not indoors, they don’t have to use their “indoor voices”. It’s also a space where, at times, they can literally feel like they are part of the performance, as the way the space is used becomes very interactive. Performing in Woking, where the UK tour launched, I’ve learned that taking the show indoors changes the way the audience behaves. They do put on their “indoor voices”; they try to be more respectful in some ways. But they are also not distracted by the ambient noises of the park, or the weather and temperature, which means they are more focussed – which in turn means that the tension and suspense doesn’t dissipate. By the end of act one the atmosphere reaches a point at which it almost feels like the audience appreciate an interval and a trip to the bar! The indoor version certainly feels more action packed.
It’s hard not to be biased about this show, being so heavily involved, but I honestly feel that this is a piece of literature/theatre that deserves to be seen and by the young and old. It already plays an important part in the education system and can easily be dismissed as a text book, or children’s English study, but we’ve played to hundreds of school kids now and, to them, it means so much more. It’s special for them to see what’s on the page come to life and this production is a real graphic interpretation of the text, and they are gripped – you tell by the atmosphere in the auditorium. It really depicts the savagery and psychology of the characters in the story. But this isn’t children’s theatre; it is a legitimate piece of theatre with amazing staging (just take a look at the production photos) which, as I said, is on a scale beyond that which is normally toured. Everyone should see it.