What do Belfast audiences want?

At a production of Catchpenny Twist by Stewart Parker in the Brian Friel Theatre last week, I couldn’t help think about the sheer lack of Parker’s work being performed in Belfast. It led me to start thinking what do Belfast theatre audiences actually want to watch? Do they thrive for Parker or are they happier with Maggie Muff?

Should audiences start having an influence as to what theatre is performed in our theatres? Should audiences have a voice to the decision makers that sit on theatre boards?

David Mamet has suggested that, “the audience (before it leaves the theatre and puts on – as do you or I – its wise, critical hat) is the only judge. If the audience members didn’t laugh, it wasn’t funny. If they didn’t gasp, it wasn’t surprising. If they did not sit forward in their seats it is not suspenseful.”

Audiences know what they like and what they want to see so why not let them have their say? Lyn Gardner notes that “nobody has a right to an audience: they have to be wooed, looked after and cherished. Often it feels that theatres want an audience, but only on their terms.”

By meeting their audiences, theatres can discuss what’s being delivered and allow their audience to voice how it meets their needs/expectations. The theatre would have as much of an opportunity to sell their vision to the audience as the audience would to challenge it.

Any thoughts? Comment below…

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