As part of the Young Vic Directors Program, occasionally members get free tickets to some of the Young Vic shows. So far because of my day-job schedule, I’ve been unable to take part in any of these offers, but tonight I enjoyed the opportunity. I was able to attend The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
I must say that I highly enjoyed the show tonight. It’s not often that I find myself actually becoming engrossed in the story and leaving direction, design, and technique unnoticed. Typically, as I think it is with many theatre practitioners, I end up paying attention to these elements and get pulled out of the story. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case tonight and that is some solid praise indeed.
After the show itself, those in the audience who wanted to stay were treated to a brief Q&A with the actors. While an idea with great potential, sometimes these sessions go a bit awry. For myself, I found that the vast majority of questions the audience were asking felt more like questions for the playwright than the actors. They asked about where the actors feel the characters are after the play and specific aspects and traits of characters. To me, these are questions more appropriate for the playwright than the actors. Questions about technique, how an actor dealt with an issue, and production-specific enquiries seem to me more appropriate for a Q&A with actors than the majority of questions being asked, so, unfortunately, I didn’t end up getting out of it what I felt could have been presented. As well all know, though, you can’t control the audience.
Something else the play did was to remind me of an funny little quirk I’ve noticed at nearly every single production I’ve been to here in the UK. Whether a small independent show or a West End spectacular, there’s this odd little thing that I’ve seen done with bows here in London. Specifically, I’ve witnessed numerous examples of actors coming out on stage, bowing, exiting, and then immediately returning for one (or more) additional bows. Every time I’ve seen this, actors will leave the stage for perhaps a single second and return right away for another bow. That single second is certainly not enough time to actually gauge whether the audience actually does want the actors to return for more recognition, or if the applause was simply going to fade out. Instead, actors come out far too quickly to tell what the audience truly wants and, in some cases, steal an extra bow or two undeservedly, forcing an audience to continue recognising them, whether that audience wants to or not.
I’ve no issue with actors coming back onstage for another bow, if it is deserved. This is what I’ve normally seen back in Canada. Actors bow, exit, and, after waiting a suitable amount of time, are able to tell whether or not an audience wishes them to return for another bow and act accordingly. Here, on the other hand, I see actors not actually taking an appropriate amount of time and simply assuming that the audience will always want to see more of them.
UK theatre practitioners, can you tell me more about this phenomenon? What, as an actor, are you told about repeat bows? Or, if you are a director, what do you tell your actors about repeat bows?