In Rejection of the Capering Simian Paradigm
Some time ago, The Double R Club were asked to stage a corporate event for a venue in the city. We did so to the best of our ability. As it was to be a corporate event we put together an evening of cabaret which was accessible, yet not without an element of atypicality; a line up that not only included some of the very best of London’s cabaret scene, but also acts that were funny, upbeat, sexy and engaging.
Before the end of the first half of our show, we were asked to stop. The reason given was that people wanted to dance not watch cabaret. This bemused us because the crowd seemed to be enjoying the show and there was another dance floor, replete with DJ, one floor up; but hey, it was their event, we thought, so we ended the first half before the last act had gone on. I went on and told the audience that we’d be back but they could now go and have a good dance. We were told that we could continue later on in the evening.
This offer was quickly retracted and it became clear that the show was over. Reasons given ranged from the aforementioned urge of the crowd to dance (and apparent inability to operate the lift to the first floor) to the utterly bizarre “the stage lights are too bright, people can see how ugly the person they’ve hooked up with is.” Again, this was bemusing, frustrating and disappointing, but again, it was their ‘do’ not ours. We’d all get paid anyway so that was that.
But then came the point in the evening when ill-judged cancellation tipped over into insult. Would our performers like to just walk about in costume and just be fabulous? Um, no. They were booked to do their acts. Would our performers do their acts to whatever the DJ is playing? Um, no. Our performers have spent a great deal of time and energy devising, writing, choreographing and rehearsing their acts; choice of music being an important part of that process. Performers are not automata or dancing monkeys. They were booked to do their act, not a version of that act to your music.
And then came the kicker, the real finger in the eye, the drawing pin in the slipper, the sand in the Vaseline, the rabbit turd in the bag of raisins, a question which not only insulted the performers, but went some way to explaining a dearth of respect for performers and utter lack of understanding of what performers are, what they are for, and why they exist: “Would your performers like to go down onto the stage and just… SHOW OFF?”
It seems clear to me that this is all this person thinks performers do, all many people think performers do, they “show off.” That’s it. It’s all just so much exhibitionism and self-regard. Now I’m not one to claim that all artists are humble, ego-less saints. Of course it takes ego to even get onstage, and many, though not all, performers are extroverts, but to devolve what they do to merely showing off is deeply insulting and ignorant.
The acts we booked that night, in fact that acts we always book, exhibit real and concrete skills, be they musical, vocal or physical, and express actual ideas, concepts, themes and thoughts; mere exhibitionism requires none of these things. They are not three-year olds screaming in supermarkets, they are not football pitch streakers.
If any bookers out there disagree, may I suggest that instead of professional performers at their next event, they book Bob in Accounts who always gets his cock out after a few shandies, or Sandra in Human Resources who likes to cry and flash her baps whenever the DJ plays Michael Bolton.