Into my mind, unbidded, came an image of a face and a cheeky style of posture. I took a moment to enjoy the feeling of remembering someone I know, and tried to work out who it was. It was a bit of a tricky one to figure out, but then I realised it was a character from the amateur pantomime I saw last week. It was a comical-interlude character doing a Chuckle Brothers-type act, two women in matching colourful overalls larking about.
At the time I'd thought the two of them were okay-ish. Probably better than I'd expected for an amateur production, but definitely not as polished as you'd see in any professional context. Their look was stereotypical - big red pigtails and freckley cheeks, paired with shapeless overalls that transformed their bodies into abstract cartoons. It was easy to see what they were *trying to do*, but it wasn't quite working, was breaking up a bit round the edges.
But the feeling that came into my head when this woman just drifted in was something different from that *trying to do*. That character, if they'd pulled it off, would have been instantly forgettable, in no way challenging, and something I'd seen a million times on TV and other pantomimes and silly productions. What stuck with me was the personality and flair of this real woman struggling to perform something slightly different. But it was where she fell short on the polish that something genuinely charming and transporting came in.
This reminds me what I love about seeing amateur shows, something I used to do a lot when I first moved to Cardiff, there are at least two separate shows going on. One is the slick, professional presentation that the actors are aiming for. But alongside it is more of themselves, which they are failing to fully obscure. Unlike the tropes of commercial acting and production which tend towards very generic, simplistic characterisation, this allows for more powerful affects to flow round the room. The audience sees the real fear and discomfort in the actors' face and bodies, their jubilation when a scene goes well, and comedy that they geniunely have never seen before.