I have a confession to make.
Audience participation stresses me out big time.
If we’re talking about getting out of one’s comfort zone then this is it for me (either that or having to exercise in public). The reason I find it so stressful is it puts two sides of my personality at odds with one another. There’s the people-pleasing SUPPORT THE ARTS AT ALL COSTS part of me, and the perfectionist I’d-rather-practice-this-over-and-over-again-before-I-make-my-Opera-House-debut part of me.
But there’s no one I’d rather have sung or written down my innermost thoughts for than the delightfully funny and enthusiastic Kate Dimbleby and Cathy Rentzenbrink at their show ‘Out of Our Comfort Zone’ last night.
Respectively a jazz singer and a Sunday Times bestseller it would have been a treat to have just one of them on stage for an hour, but to have them both made for a hidden gem of an evening which was unexpected in its vulnerability and wit.
When I first heard these two acclaimed artists would be trying out each other’s skills on stage, I wondered how the audience would be brought into that rather intimate exchange. But before too long I was discovering the theatre’s acoustics from the dress circle, earnestly (and uncharacteristically) belting out ‘Stand by me’ along with them.
Looking around I saw that everyone in my vicinity was equally transfixed – in the palms of these two women’s hands as they opened up about their pasts, shared their fears and spoke about the difficulties they face when it comes to finding and listening to their own voices.
The reason this show, which one audience member described as “bittersweet and liberating,” worked so well is because as Kate and Cathy got out of their comfort zones, they slowly coaxed us out into doing the same. Feeling less like a grandiose performance and more like a meet up with two of your favourite and very talented friends – ‘Out of Our Comfort Zones’ achieved an intimacy and connection with their audience which is almost impossible to do in a 625-seater Opera House.
I was struck by the love and admiration between these two women which was blatant. In a world where girls increasingly feel they have to compete with each other – a feeling that is only exacerbated amongst artists – it was so refreshing to see Kate and Cathy provide the antidote to that toxic culture. Rather, they saw one another as an opportunity to learn something new about themselves as they supported and listened to each other so compassionately on stage.
There were a few moments of uncertainty or tangents which slowed the pace down a little but on the other hand it also made for a really personable and quite moving experience.
I’m going to be at the Festival of Words all weekend, blogging, seeing shows and maybe having a Prosecco or two – come and join in (I promise I won’t sing at you!)
Go on, even if it’s not really your thing, take a leaf out of Kate and Cathy’s book and get out of your comfort zone!
Check out the full festival programme here – there really is something for everyone.
WORDS: Martha MacDonald
PICTURES: Peter Mourant