There is truly something refreshing about a show that isn’t staged, doesn’t have memorised lines, and that the audience has a crucial part to play. This was the case in Kate McIntosh’s All Ears.
Just walking into the theatre, I knew I was in for an experience like no other. With string strewn around the floor, seemingly at random, and a random table toward the front of the thrust stage we noticed Kate McIntosh sitting, watching. As the last of the audience filed in, the talking ceased, leaving the theatre in silence. Kate had the ability it seemed, to silence us with her glazy stare and just by watching us we maintained that silence.
The first half of the show began with a bizarre range of survey questions, and for those of you who are uncomfortable with audience participation, this may not be the show for you. Though the questions were seemingly very random, they audience complied, with a surprising amount of people admitting to prior theft!
This part of the show wasn’t just a survey however – Kate also had the audience doing things such as blowing up bags and had us engaging with the back of the person in front of us, asking us to consider if we’d eat that person in a life or death situation. She also ‘conducted’ the audience, and we were amazingly compliant.
Without words, she managed to have us rubbing our hands, clicking our fingers, patting our legs and stamping our feet.
Kate left us for the next part of the show and this was where it got interesting. At first, no one really knew what to do, everyone looking around at each other, confused. Then audience members unknowingly entertained us by pulling on the strings that we noticed when we had walked in. After an interesting, noisy and chaotic few minutes, we were all in wonder about what to expect next.
Kate returned, holding a boom microphone, slowly walking to the front of the stage. The way she held herself really made sure the audience knew to be quiet. She then held up cards saying what was happening, including ‘recording audience silence,’ ‘recording audience breathing,’ and ‘recording audience sweating.’ Kate then challenged us about the people around us – the other audience members that we suddenly knew much more about. The people who had come on their own and those people who had eaten on their own this week. It forced us to question our experience, our thoughts and feelings, and our natural compliance. We became very aware of all senses throughout the night, and for those afraid of the dark, you might want to consider taking a friend to hold.
To finish off, Kate asked the audience to pick a number out of 100, and add it to the amount of breaths they had blown into the bag. They were then asked to count to that number and say ‘now’ when they had got it. It was an eye-opening idea to hear how similar but different we all are. Just when we thought it was finished, someone else would say ‘now.’
Finally, when Kate announced she was finished, the applause thundered through the hall. It was obviously not only me that thought this was an incredible experience to be a part of.
The show was really thought-provoking, with every random question fitting in to a broader meaning, and by the end, there was a strange bond between the audience members – we now knew so much about people who we’d never met before. We knew who was calmed by the sound of rain, we knew who was usually late, we knew who believed they wouldn’t live very long. There was an unspoken bond that had now formed, and it is something that I’ve never experienced to this extent in live theatre.