From Camperdown to Bannockburn

How can shows be so different?

Camperdown Library

Tuesday morning’s Camperdown show was in the tiny little library with everyone on the floor or on chairs just behind the kids. We had a rollicking time. There was a little fella on a woman’s lap and every time Cha Cha Sam looked at him he folded over with laughter and ran his hands around his face and head. He was joy personified.

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Some of the mob from Camperdown

An ex-teacher visiting the library made it quite clear to all via a broadcasted complaint to Karen, the librarian, that the sound of the children laughing was disturbing him. Retirement can be a very noble thing (please note, current Australian Government wanting to extend retirement age to 70). Imagine having a teacher who is disturbed by the sound of children’s laughter? Karen handled the scene beautifully and diffused tensions.

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Nanna is rescued
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Karen, librarian at Camperdown and Cha Cha Sam

Colac Library

In the afternoon, Colac was as tough a gig as you’d ever want; people seated in auditorium seating so they can be easily disconnected from the action, people chatting at full voice and kids racing up and down the stairs. At one stage Pauline the Parrot gave them all a bit of ‘what for’ to pull it all into shape. From then on we all rolled along together. Afterwards people came up to share their excitement and appreciation of the message of the show. Some days it can take a little time to ‘get each other’. Thanks Lorraine for your welcome.

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Some of the mob from Colac

Newcomb Library

Newcomb Library had a big room that allowed us to stretch out a bit but not lose each other in the space. We laughed and danced and kept pretty much to script in a comfy show. Thanks Nikki for your welcome and hanging back from your Easter break for us.

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Cha Cha Sam and Nikki
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Newcomb mob

Torquay Library

The colourful carpet tiled floor was the first thing that catches your eye in this small library. As soon as we began setting up the show a stream of children and their grownups came in and filled the space with books and reading. We stepped over people to put the sound cables down and listened in to grabs of read aloud picture books.

Postcards Torquay - 78We were warned by librarian Deeanne that the sun shine might steal our audience, but at show time in they came and off we went.

It’s a funny life to have nappies changed in the middle of your show. There are so many uncontrollable factors in live performance which is why ritual is so important for a perfomer to steady their ship and be centred enough to deal with whatever comes their way. The Cha Cha Sam team have a very ritualised way of bumping in; one thing after another. All of it unspoken. Within this very tight framework the high level of improvising can happen safely – from having toddlers onstage, to kids pinching the set pieces and having to retrieve them in character whilst saying a line etc etc.

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Some of the mob from Torquay

Thanks to Deeanne for the welcome and feisty chat about racism after the show.

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Ande, Deeanne and Cha Cha Sam

Belmont Library

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Next morning Belmont audience came in soooo eager to have fun that it was impossible torespond with anything but generosity and irreverence; the performance was littered with double entendres and targeted references to individuals in the audience. Dead centre at the back of the room was a girl about 10 who beamed and nodded at every line thrown her way with a ‘Yes, I KNOW what you mean’ sort of radiance. She was so ready for life.  Postcards Belmont - 124

Thanks to Lee for a hearty welcome and a shared connection through fathers teaching together in Shepparton many moons ago. (Who knew?)

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
Yiddish proverb

Bannockburn Library

Postcards Bannockburn - 140 Our last show, Bannockburn was done to the unsettling aroma of bushfire to a tiny little audience who seemed sooo shy that it required more of a gentle touch in the performanceby Andrea, who worked unceasingly to make it safe for them to join in. And they did.

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Georgia, Cha Cha Sam and Kerry

How can a show, performed so closely in relation to each other by the same performer be so different?

Because live performance is NEVER the same twice and, more importantly, the audience determines the show they get. The way an audience enters the space, prepares for the show, responds in the first two minutes of the show determines what sort of show they receive. Live performance is a circle of reciprocity; what you give you get straight back from both sides of the ‘footlights’. Very few audiences would ever consciously prepare for a show in much the same way performers do – doing stretches and vocal warm-ups in preparation for the eliciting of tonight’s show.

So, if as an audience member you sit back with a steely face you throw the performers into ‘working hard’ to get you on board with them. What you can get is a breathless, rushed, slightly stiffened performance from someone who feels they are on the back foot.

If, instead you lean forward and beam at a performer and laugh at their funny bits you throw them a line to tow you way out to sea laughing all the way; they’ll be funnier and more gentle because you have shown that you are with them in this and they can relax and play.

Being present. That’s what it takes to be a conscious audience member. In a family show, our kids are saturated in the social signals of how to relate to this experience. And every adult caring for a child knows that the adult is the lighthouse showing the way. So next time you go to a live show, hop right in and give it all you’ve got; it might guide someone else to have fun too – and it may be someone you love.

Happiness is a form of courage
Holbrook Jackson

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Some of Bannockburn mob

A big thanks to VicHealth, Arts Victoria, The Australia Council for the Arts, Public Libraries Network Victoria, and the Australian Institute of Social Relations for helping us to bring Nanna to the road.