by Susan Cohen
Last night, as we sat in the Memminger in the few minutes remaining before The Red Shoes began, Arts Editor Erica Jackson was a bit concerned. She said that in 2009, for Kneehigh Theatre's performances of Don John, cast members had done something that awkward people like us fear more than almost anything: audience interaction. They had gone out into the crowd, grabbed people, and started dancing with them. Oof. That's the moment of a show when I usually focus my eyes on my lap and pray for temporary invisibility.
Now we wondered if the same would happen at this show. When we had arrived at the Memminger, we found the cast of The Red Shoes — dressed in suits, heads shaved, with full-on emaciated makeup — performing music outside the venue's doors. The quartet was armed with a violin, accordion, trombone, and some kind of woodwind that I can't name outright because it's been too long since I've taken a music class. It was an unexpected touch, and set a kind of light-hearted tone that was contrasted by their ghastly appearance.
Once we had settled in the theater, I began to notice a guy searching for his seat. What set him apart from every other person in the exact same position was his outfit. He was dressed in saggy white underwear and carrying a suitcase. Now, because I've obviously read our preview of The Red Shoes, I knew he was a member of the cast. Soon you could spot his fellow actors wandering around the bleachers as well.
The row in front of us was empty, and soon one of the actors was headed our way. He silently motioned toward the seats, imploring with the people behind us. They gave him permission, and he sat down. Soon he was joined by a younger counterpart. Erica, being the quick-witted journalist, took out her camera and began snapping pictures of the pair. It wasn't long before they noticed. And it wasn't long before the younger one reached his arm over to Erica. At first she thought he wanted her notebook. But he only had eyes for her digital camera. Which he grabbed. And proceeded to take pictures with, though he was a bit confused by the mechanism.
We kept this one upside-down, because that's how he took it.
And, as a parting shot, a wedgie.
All in all, I wasn't unhappy with this sort of interaction. At least they didn't try to make us dance.