Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dannish Babar Know What You're Thinking, 15-19th February 2011

For the last five evenings I've been providing the music for Dannish Babar's stand-up show, 'Dannish Babar Knows What You're Thinking'. Whilst he stood up, I sat at the side of the stage and played guitar. It worked well! We got a glowing review from Varsity [here] and a relatively good if confused one from The Tab [here]. I guess one problem with student reviews (possibly reviews in general) is that the reviewer is not always very well-informed on the particular genre of the work they are reviewing. I reckon the best reviews aren't only an exercise in "I liked this / disliked this because..." but are sensitive to the context and history of the work, and how it furthers the art form (or doesn't). That kind of review is also much more interesting to read.

Anyway. As my first experience of being in a comedy show, it was really interesting to look at the differences in stagecraft, audience participation and tone required. Comedy really seems to rely on its audience. It's true that the best music gigs are also the ones where there's a large and they're really behind the band, but if a band is playing really well it almost doesn't matter if they're playing to 50 people or 500. It's very different for comedy, the audience is integral in creating the experience. One night we had a small audience and a lot of the material that worked every other night - and produced massive laughs - fell flat, with only smiles and giggles from the audience. I think it's much easier to laugh freely when there are a lot of people in the room, partly because the presence of so many people provides a kind of tension that just isn't there with small audiences, and partly because it's less about the individual and more the collective feeling of the group - each person is more comfortable laughing when their voice contributes to the collective laughter of the audience, instead of being a singular sound. We were lucky to have pretty much sold-out audiences for the last two nights, which worked really well.

As far as music went, the challenge was to fit the music to the script so that there wasn't too much discontinuity or jarring - in the end, it led to me playing stuff that was quite neutral in terms of its emotional content, and was more designed to sustain momentum, apart from one or two points at which I played some exaggerated versions of 'inspiring advert music' and some sad music for ironic effect. It was really interesting to see how music could be used in this context, as it really couldn't influence Dannish's material too much, and it's easy for music to give meaning to words that they might not otherwise have. So it was an exercise listening and being sensitive to meaning as much as anything. It was also really nice to just play pretty much solidly for an hour and a half every night, and it was great how many people came up afterwards and complimented the show. Dannish has put together a really funny show, and, hopefully, there'll be some more performances at some point...

BONUS - here's the opening video:

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