Dear West End Producer: ‘What should you do when you see a fellow actor’s work and you don’t think it’s any good?’
My dear – seeing a friend or loved one in a show that is rubbish (a shrubbish) can be an awkward affair.
Not only do you feel embarrassed for your friend, but you know you will have to talk about their theatrical car crash. Maybe it was so bad you had to leave in the interval, or you closed your eyes and tried to sleep (I did that watching Stephen Ward). However, these tricky situations can be handled if you are prepared with the right phrases.
One of the most important things is not to lie. Although this can be tempting, telling a fib to your friend will not rest well with your conscience. Saying something is good when it is actually terrible will not sound sincere and make even the most naive person see you are talking a load of trollop.
The best thing to do is to have a handbook of tried and trusted phrases to use – that will give the impression you enjoyed the show, even if you didn’t.
Here are a selection of useful phrases to use after seeing a shrubbish:
• You were really energetic.
• That was very enlightening.
• I loved the costumes.
• It was a bold interpretation.
• I thought you did a great job.
• How long did you have to rehearse?
• I loved how it was so different.
• Did you get on with everybody?
• You were the best thing in it.
• I found it really moving.
• You had a lot more to do than I thought.
• What did you think of the audience tonight?
• Did you get my flowers?
• How long is the run?
• The audience were really responsive.
• What a beautiful theatre.
• How do you think it’s going?
• Well done!
If you leave at the interval you must never tell your actor friend. That has to stay with you until you die. An actor will never forgive you if you tell them what you think about their performance. It will ruin friendships, marriages, and planned camping trips to the Peak District.
The trick when speaking to anyone in a bad show is to try to change the subject whenever possible and ask lots of questions – as this will seem like you are genuinely interested. Smile, ask how their personal life is, what they think about Brexit, and buy them alcohol. This will make them forget you haven’t mentioned the show, but they will be so happy with all the free drinks that they won’t care (and getting drunk will help you forget how terrible they were).
The truth is your friends will probably already know how bad their show is and be feeling pretty awkward about it. So do your duty as a friend and try to make them feel better. Support them, offer enthusiasm, smile, and have a large interval drink. Besides, to actors, friends are the fourth emergency service‚ after agents, casting directors and directors.
Send questions via Twitter @westendproducer