ABSTRACT

The spectator/performer account is taken from Alec Guinness' autobiographical recollection of his experience of watching the comedienne Nellie Wallace perform in a variety show at the Coliseum when he was aged six or seven. Nellie Wallace is described here by Guinness as being likeable to the point of 'love'; and her act clearly effected release in the impressionable young spectator: Guinness describes interplay in Wallace's 'centre-stage' address to the audience and her use of 'wicked looks'. He also attempts to conjure Wallace's use of timing in her sudden 'dives' 'under the sheets' while depicting her expertise in her 'twinkling' comic leaps. The interplay that comic performance demands, between each person in the ensemble, individually and jointly with the audience, means that you are required to be consciously aware of each different audience's ongoing response of laughter as it arises within live theatrical situations.