Off-stage theatrical marketing and knowing what not to write in a script

Last night. I saw Kyle Riabko‘s stage musical Close to You: Burt Bacharach ReImagined at the Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus in London. (It was previously staged in New York and at Londons Menier Chocolate Factory as What’s It All About: Burt Bacharach ReImagined.) It was very good. But what impressed me as much as the production itself was that, when we came out of the theatre after the show. the cast had already legged-it outside and were performing with a busker by the statue of Eros.

I presume they do this every night and it is a (very successful) attempt to add street cred to the ‘relaxed’ production. It succeeded as a marketing idea because loads of audience members (like me) would see this and talk about it to other people, spreading good word-of-mouth.

In that sense, what was done separate from the production was almost as important as what was in the production itself.

I was saying this to someone on Friday – and also that I thought writing was a bit like the old John West tinned salmon ad on TV years ago. The tagline of that ad was “It’s the salmon that John West rejects that makes John West the best”.

It is easy to write lots of fluent words, but it is what you choose to exclude that has as much or more impact than what you include.

Sicario poster

This afternoon, I saw the movie Sicario, which must surely be in line for multiple Oscar nominations.

I had been slightly worried by things I had read about mutilated bodies and gore et al (it is about the Mexican drug cartels) – but (although these shots are briefly and effectively in there) what impressed me was the restraint of the direction and the extreme restraint of the script – words only bunged in when necessary.

It is what the audience is not told and what is not explained that makes Sicario so effective. For example, it is only about 90 minutes into the 121 minute film that it is fully confirmed what is actually happening… Plus I do not think the title word is ever actually mentioned in the movie and it is only towards the very end that it becomes obvious why the movie has the very specific title Sicario.

So that’s today’s trite message: the effect of a production on an audience can often be more than you see on stage or on screen.

1 Comment

Filed under Marketing, Movies, Music, Theatre, Writing

One response to “Off-stage theatrical marketing and knowing what not to write in a script

  1. Owen Morgan

    I agree- back in the late ’50s my mum went to see a production of Eugene Ionesco’s metaphorical play ‘Rhinocerous’ (a sort of precursor of ‘Invasion of the Body-Snatchers’). When the play ended and the lights went up, those members of the audience who were in box seats were seen to be wearing rhino masks as they clapped- the audience gasped!
    But it can be disastrous if handled the wrong way- back in ’72 I went with my family to see a play at Birmingham Rep. called ‘The Magic Island’, a retelling of the legend of King Arthur. For some unearthly reason it also involved Hengest, who is nothing to do with Arthurian legend but Norse. He was played by Paul Henry (better known as Benny from ‘Crossroads’)- they came charging down from the BACK of the auditorium roaring and waving their battle-axes, then proceded to grab a guy from his seat, drag him onto the stage, tear his clothes off and haul him backstage. I was only 3 years old and I was terrified, my mum had to take me out- she explained to me that the man who was assaulted was himself an actor who’d been planted there deliberately, but it put me off live theatre until I was in my mid-20s, which grieved my mother as she was herself a professional actress and loved drama. ‘The Magic Island’ was typical of the really stupid trendy experimental stuff that was popular in the early ’70s, but such shows as that should be advertised as unsuitable for young children.

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