Bringing the Audience in on the Con!

There may be honour among thieves but it appears that con men have more in common than we thought. Performing con men on the stage and screen, that is, not the ones who are out robbing banks!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Cast Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Cast
Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels premiered in Sydney last week. I was fortunate enough to see it over the weekend and I must say that the reviews are spot on naming this production one of the best shows to hit Sydney in a long time!

The entire cast was phenomenal. The ensemble was right on key. The orchestra was pitch perfect. And the leads . . . well, they were just perfect! Congratulations to everyone involved for a brilliant production. However, leaving all this to the side, I want to look at something else.

When audiences see a new show there can often be issues as they hear the music and are exposed to the story for the first time. Usually all the focus goes to absorbing the song or storyline at the expense of seeing the big picture or appreciating the performances. However, there was something special about the way this show was written that allowed all the audience members to overcome this potential issue and leave the theatre on a high – having witnessed one of the best shows in Australia!

And I think I know what it is . . .

Fans of British television will be acquainted with the BBC television show Hustle which, alike Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, is centred on the art of conning. This television series has been immensely popular in the UK due to many reasons such as high production values and a very attractive cast of talented actors, but there is one thing that they do better than any other television show:

Breaking the fourth wall.

Basically ‘Breaking the fourth wall’ refers to the actor leaving their current situation and turning to address the audience – in character, of course. Well, a similar thing happens in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as Lawrence Jameson often turns to the audience to initiate them into the con. This technique has the nice effect of including the audience in the action making them part of the story rather than an observer, in essence involving them in the show and not placing a large reliance on them interpreting the story. Instead we are graciously provided with a narrator.

By providing this extra information to the audience, they are not only immersed in the product but they are also given the opportunity to appreciate the performances and the bigger picture of the stage show. And if the audience can leave the theatre having been immersed in the action, having understood the show and having appreciated the brilliant performances they will be a lot more likely give reviews like ‘Best show of the century’. Especially compared to a show where the audience spent all their energy trying to understand what was happening!

Sometimes that extra bit of information can make a world of difference (and it also doesn’t hurt when it feels like Tony Sheldon is talking to you directly from the stage!).

Well done to all involved in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for putting on one of the most remarkable shows Sydney audiences will see in a long time!