Me and Kim disagree on many things – Chinese or Indian food, red or white wine, but one of the most arguable we find is that of Alan Ayckbourn’s writing. But as part of my North Yorkshire Weekend Extravanagza me, Kim and Kims mum took our seats at the Steven Joseph Theatre in good old Scarborough front. A venue, that Kim’s mum proudly told me, Kim had performed through most of her school career. I had been promised interactive theatre – plenty of opportunities to get involved – play the parts. I was excited and ready – then the bombshell was dropped that Karaoke theatre company was founded by Alan Ayckbourne. Now my one and only experience of Alan Achbornes writing was in the Theatre Royal Haymarket – London – with my stepdad. £10 tickets which the theatre ever so kindly upgraded to ones worth at least £50 in the stalls. The play was one of his biggest and most famous, ‘How the Other Half loves’ with an all-star cast with one person I recognised from Eastenders. I did not enjoy it. Well, I mean it looked good and was staged well but the writing was just dated, cliché and very very misogynistic. You know, women have babies and cook dinners for the husband that works very hard all day. Not great for a self identifying third wave feminist, but the mainly OAP, white, middle class audience chortled and giggled as the story unfolded of cheating relationships and gross misunderstandings. However, this reflection of audience reaction to Acykbourn’s writing was mostly mimicked in the Steven Joseph.
The Karaoke Theatre company themselves, were fabulous. All professionally trained actors they seamlessly handled the performance and swatched characters and situations perfectly. It was obvious that they had natural skill in comedy and improvisation, which I would have liked to see more of, because it was in those moments when I laughed hardest. However, the audience interaction had costs and benefits – with one moment in particular. The scene was a classic ‘whodunnit’ – there had been a murder and all were the subjects, with one catch. They were not going to be speaking, that was the job of the audience. Now I am a self-confessed limelight lover – if I can get up and perform I will, so naturally my hand shot straight up – only to be shot straight back down with the charming comment of “oh no, we need a man instead”. OK, but there were no men volunteering their performances. So they came back, to “the lady who had her hand up before, would you like to come down?” – on principle – no she would not, having been shot down in front of an entire theatre. It was rude, humiliating and quite, to a point, sexist. But I said yes, got up and read the part of the male detective, in my best female voice. And as a self-confessed extrovert, really quite enjoyed it – although the experience stuck with me.