There's always one! At every party, promotion, store opening, fete, fair or fun day. There's always one audience member....you'd really rather wasn't there at all. Not the nice hecklers. No, they can be fun. ("Every village has one, ladies and gentlemen!") They can provide interaction with you, the performer, at the very least. ("I remember when I had my first pint of lager!")
No....these are the ones who seem hell-bent on ruining everything. The one who spits at you from the front row. They're always in the front row. The one who shouts out what's going to happen next....and usually gets it wrong. The one who's always first to dash up on stage during the interval and "do a trick" (with your props. if they can get at them!) The one who volunteers to make trouble. The one who makes sure to tell you that they've seen better performers....and they think you're the worst.
We've all had them....there's always one. What makes them do it? Do they realise that their behaviour has a negative effect on the show, the others and the artiste? Of course they do!
It takes a lot of motivational energy to shout at a performer in front of a crowd....and an inflated opinion of your own position in the cosmos. Or does it? Its easy to think of people like this as "difficult" but perhaps we'd be able to understand them better if we realised they were more like "people with difficulties".
Their difficulty might be the length of their attention span. The average adult span is currently 12 minutes....and falling. Some children I know have a span of less than half that. Their difficulty could be that they don't like magic....or circus....or whatever. Not everyone does. But it's more likely that they don't like (consciously or unconsciously) someone else getting all the attention.
I've tried: "I'm sorry....am I taking all the attention away from you?" I don't use it now because it tends to hurt people....its too close to the truth and I'm not there to score points. I've also used: "Listen, just a friendly warning, no one thinks you're funny and what you're doing is beginning to get in my way; please stop it". This sometimes works. You can always shame them in front of the rest of the crowd with your acid wit of course....but I don't like doing that either.
I've found the most effective method is to "make friends with the enemy". Sounds too simple? Obvious? Never likely to work in a million years? Yes, all these at once. And it all depends on how you do it. I talk to them as myself....not my stage character. I drop my defences and they're more likely to drop theirs. I suggest getting them to talk about themselves. Asking them questions, showing an interest in them as people and listening carefully to what they have to say. All this can be done quite quickly and not disrupt the entertainment for others.
Its amazing how a problem punter can be turned around in this way into someone who will, at least, let you close your show. Don't even think of trying to make them into a nice person or attempting to cure their personality defect. The only realistic goal is to get through and minimise disruption to the act and the rest of the audience. The others will be on your side remember, not theirs.
Yes....there's always one audience member....you'd really rather wasn't there at all. In every show, at every place....and sometimes the children are even worse!
Click here for more Circus Stories