We finally opened! What a relief! After months and weeks and days and hours that ever-increased in work-load to get the show ready, we finally broke the cherry on another show of all-new sketches.
Thursday night’s opening was fantastic. I’ve never been involved in an opening that went better than this one did. Everybody involved raised their energy and quality of performance to a huge degree compared to the level we were bringing to rehearsals. I think that the last week and a half of rehearsals, we’ve been kind of holding back, feeling more or less ready to perform in front of audiences. So, it was a huge and pleasant surprise to see absolutely everyone elevate themselves so much. Thursday’s crowd was large (not quite sold out), and very supportive, as opening night crowds usually are. Lots of laughter, often huge and sustained. Plus, they had the willingness we hoped audiences would have to follow us down some pretty strange roads this year and end up in worlds where perhaps laughter isn’t the primary emotion they’re going to experience.
We like to play with audience expectation, and this year (moreso than any other) I think it’s fair to say that the audience has no idea what they’re going to see from one sketch to the next. We also like to offer sketches that we realise may not appeal to everyone. Sometimes we’ll even present a sketch that we expect nobody but us will enjoy. Usually, though, the audience is more than willing to enjoy what we enjoy. And if certain audience members don’t particularly like specific sketches or moments, then chances are they’re going to like what we have in store for them next sketch. The last thing I want to do is present a night of comedy that is so safe and pedestrian that everyone kind of enjoys it more or less, I guess, yeah it was okay. While we always have a few sketches that are more universal in their appeal (I hope), we really like to explore the edges, and present things that elicit extremes of opinion. I love it when we have a sketch that the majority of people absolutely love (and are maybe a bit embarrassed at themselves for liking it), yet a few in the audience who absolutely despise it (usually due to their own hangups, in my opinion). I love sketches that can create such opposing emotions in individuals sitting side by side watching the same thing, but seeing it in completely different ways.
Anyway, enough on my theory of what I like in comedy. Back to the story: Thursday night was a really wonderful experience for everyone (I assume) involved in Sketch22. Lots of appreciation from the audience (standing ovation at the end! although I always assume they’re fueled more by the need to stand up and stretch than to offer appreciation through clapping and standing), really strong performances by everyone, and a show that technically went without any obvious hickups. (I’ll not admit as to whether that "forgetting of my lines" moment was honest, or whether it’s part of the show).
So, with us all focusing so much energy on our opening night, and the weight-off-our-shoulders relief that came upon its successful completion, I was worried about our energy for Friday’s show. I expected it to be something of a dud (as second-night shows sometimes are). The crowd was smaller in size, too, which added to my expectations of a low-energy show. Plus, a couple of us had some hoarse throat issues that threatened to interfere with the show. Plus, the Jazz & Blues Tent outside the Guild was on the verge of suffocating us. Plus, there were, um, stomach issues for at least one of us…
Turns out, there was quite a difference in energy between the two nights. I won’t say it was a lower energy for Friday’s show, but it was definitely a more relaxed energy, and I don’t believe it negatively impacted the show. It merely took the show in a different direction and gave it a different feel. In fact, it was another really great show and I was pleasantly surprised by that. There were, again, leaps and bounds made by the performers, in terms of pacing and hitting cues and that kind of junk. The audience, though smaller, was really great, and their energy and laughter, right from the very first moment of the show, to the very end, really helped us find the energy and enthusiasm to give them the quality of show they deserved.
I’ll be interested to hear reviews and comments about the show. Really, I’m ready for reviews to run the gamut like they did last year, from The Guardian’s "appalling" to the Buzz’s "best comedy show anywhere, anytime" opinions, and everything in between. As there was all kinds of laughter happening throughout each of our first two performance, I suspect that most people are enjoying what we offer. Those sketches that elicit laugther speak for themselves. I’ll be curious to see how audiences react and reflect on the sketches we offer that ask a bit more from them.
It’s a fun show to perform and be part of. Can’t wait to do it again next week.