by Park Theatre

Attending the exceptional MonologueSlam at Rich Mix this week inspired me to think about the qualities of a successful performers' showcase (a very very hard thing to pull off).  Here are a few:

1. A great compere who keeps the energy up, inspires confidence in the event (nerves, on the part of the participants and infecting the audience, can kill a showcase) and keeps the whole show flowing.  I had my doubts about the idea of having a compere at all, thinking it could make the evening feel more like a standup night and set the wrong tone for the more serious pieces.  I was wrong.  A charismatic MC who fully supports and understands the performers is worth his or her weight in gold.

2. Strict quality control.  The standard of the actors at MonologueSlam is consistently high.  They don't have to pay to participate, but they do have to get through a high-level audition.  Quality control should include the judicious selection of show-stopping speeches, perfectly suited to the performers' abilities.

3. An openly competitive element.  Nobody wants the sheer cruelty of TV talent shows, but friendly-yet-fierce competition gives the whole thing an edge.

4. A great network that can pull in high-calibre judges (and audience members).  Let's face it, great talent will only be attracted by the opportunity to be seen by people who have the power to get them work.

5. A blast of quality live music, a DJ, other elements to give the audience a full-on night of entertainment.

London is awash with actors' showcases, and I generally give them a big bodyswerve.  But with the right elements in place, they can be fantastic shows in their own right - rather than a professional chore on the part of the audience and a painful trial for the participants.

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