There are always serious issues surrounding theatre. Many plays and musicals contain content which is serious, emotional and relevant to problems that exist within our society, and on the industry side of matters, there are issues with actors’ pay, financial investments, platforms for new work and so forth. The entertainment factor of theatre serves to balance this out however, providing audiences with an enjoyable experience and allowing the performers to live out their dream. In musical theatre, even the shows which deal with serious content, like Les Miserables, do so in an entertaining fashion – people may leave sniffling into their tissues, but there will also be a smile on their faces.
One of the most entertaining aspects of musical theatre is the tradition of the ‘muck-up matinee’. On a cast member’s last day, it’s become common for the rest of the cast to do things to ‘muck them up’ during the matinee performance. This can include tricks such as switching costumes, pulling faces or different accents, popping up in scenes they’re not usually in, changing song lyrics, replacing props and so on. The cast are usually very careful to be subtle in what they do and ensure any shenanigans are still in keeping with the running of the show. One great example I heard was from Phantom, in which one of the cast members hid in the boat used in the scene where the Phantom takes Christine down to his lair, surprising the actor playing the Phantom, who then had to get through the title song without letting on that she was there. A muck-up matinee is all about these little in-jokes between the cast and they will often go over the heads of the audiences. Still, there is a question of whether muck-up matinees should go on.
There are those who are very much against the tradition, believing that it can spoil the theatre experience for the audience and that it’s unfair to mess around with the show when people have paid out for tickets.They’ve also accused the performers of just being self-indulgent in their antics, to the detriment of the show. As I previously said, a muck-up matinee is usually very subtle and unnoticeable to anyone not onstage, but if you are an audience member who is very familiar with the show, then you are probably going to pick up on some of it. In that instance, I can understand why those fans wouldn’t enjoy a muck-up matinee as dedicated fans of a particular show are often fiercely protective of it and won’t appreciate seeing it, in their eyes, compromised by the antics of the cast. The answer is pretty simple though: just don’t go. The claim that first-time audience members who find their trip falls on a muck-up matinee will have their first experience of the show ruined is one which, in my opinion, has no merit whatsoever. If you don’t know about the tradition, then you aren’t likely to notice anything amiss and, if you do know about it, then simply avoid that performance if you don’t agree with it.
There are many fans who delight in a muck-up matinee and will book tickets specifically to see that performance, looking out to see just how many of the cast’s tricks they can spot. I’ve never been to one myself but I don’t have an issue with it. It’s a bit of fun for the cast and, as long as it doesn’t detract anything from the performance for the audience, what’s the harm in that?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Wednesday 25th April 2012