The Audience Returns…
A post by Greg
Over the past week I performed four shows.
Fifteen months ago that would have seemed like such an unexceptionable sentence that I would never have thought of writing it in a blog. In fact, for much of the year it could have been considered a slow week – and back when I was touring in Italy I was regularly performing twenty shows a week!
The past year, however, has obviously been different for all of us. For a few days in December I did manage to perform some magic for people waiting in line to see ‘Father Christmas’ at an event at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway in Havenstreet, where I was safely separated from everyone by standing elevated in a railway wagon… until I got ‘pinged’ by track and trace and had to self-isolate.
It has been 14 months, since I performed the ‘Non-Psychic ‘Psychic’ Show’ in Crewe, since I had a ‘proper’ live audience, not people I have seen over a computer screen or with extreme pandemic safety measures performing for a queue. Then the government restrictions being relaxed on 17th May suddenly made it possible for me to properly perform outdoor shows once more, and one day later, on the 18th, I was set to perform for an audience of sixty school children in the garden of the hotel where they were staying on a residential school trip to the Isle of Wight, and had my magic show booked for performances over the next two nights (with half of the group watching each night).
I had wondered for a while what that first performance back would feel like.
Obviously I knew there would be technical changes to the show for safety reasons – I have had to temporarily cut anything which would need close audience interaction or a lot of passing objects backwards and forwards for example – so no ‘pick a card’ tricks (not that I do many of those anyway). On a ‘feeling’ note though, would it feel good to be back, would if feel strange, or would it feel like I had never been away?
Now I know the answer. If I had to sum up my first performance as a magician back with a live audience a few miles from home in a hotel garden on the Isle of Wight, the word I would have to use is ‘fast’. It felt quick, everything flew by.
I had deliberately chosen tricks with a quick set up to allow me to get into the show as quickly as possible after arriving, so obviously the set up was fast, but from the moment the children started to take their seats on the grass and I opened my mouth to perform, it felt like the show took off! Everything was going well, I was excited, and everything felt so fast.
It was only as I picked up the last trick that I had intended to perform that evening and looked at my clock that I realised why everything had seemed so fast, as it dawned on me that the reason the show had felt so fast was that it had been – I had performed what should have been a full hour of material in 40 minutes, and now had twenty minutes left to fill!
Luckily I always have extra material with me, so in the moment I just moved on and did more pieces, and it was only afterwards on my drive home that I dissected why I had dashed through the material, and I came to the conclusion that there were two reasons.
The first reason was that I had been excited! Of course I had, I was performing a full show for a live audience for the first time in fourteen months, and that excitement made everything a little quicker than usual – this was something I would have to watch over my next few shows.
The second factor was to do with applause! You know when you go to a live show and people clap at the end of tricks (at least they do if the performance is good)? For the last fourteen months I hadn’t had the applause running through shows – the ‘(Almost) Live’ shows were not interactive with audio, and in Zoom shows I keep the audience on mute except when they are participating in a particular trick, and so had replaced applause with hand waving.
The bottom line is that I hadn’t heard laughter and applause in that way for over a year, and had become used to a ‘video’ sense of timing, meaning that I had actually been treading on my own laughs and applause in that show, instead of allowing the tricks to ‘breathe’ and the audience to actually get their applause out! There is an art to timing the right moment to continue the show during laughter or applause, to not let it die out to an awkward silence, but not to cut it off too early, and I had not thought about this part of adjusting to a live audience again.
Having fully debriefed myself, I was, overall, really pleased with my first show back performing live, and even more so the second night when, with the proper course corrections, the show ran much better to the time I had expected!
With live shows returning, but also with work now well underway for the ‘Greg Chapman Magic Show’ series to film over the next few months, I am looking forward to a future that allows me to combine what I enjoy from both live shows and filmed shows!
Thank you for reading, and please, stay safe!
P.s. You can find out more about my magic shows at www.gregchapman.net.