Last night, I went to see Viva Forever with Krista Madden, the lady behind the highly influential Handpicked Media network. It corrals the best digital talent, from a hemisphere of independent networks of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle blogs.
These are the people that grew up with the Spice Girls. In their youth, they lived and breathed Union Jack dresses, platform trainers and girl power V signs. I asked her to pop along to see if she thought the show connected to the generation that was touched by Girl Power.
Krista tweeted after the show: @Beautyanthedirt: Anyone who didn’t want to get up and dance at the end of that is dead inside #vivaforever – happiest audience I’ve even seen!
Ever the man looking for a chance to promote a brilliant meme I retweeted the response to the show. It wasn’t long before some old dinosaur from ad land counter tweeted a wretched broadsheet review of the show. He’d read the review, and concluded the show probably wasn’t for him. He was probably right- he certainly wasn’t the target demographic. But the exchange served to illustrate a truth about how audiences engage with theatre in the 21st Century.
The forces of new media and the accelerators which now motivate the crowd for a show like this are not necessarily swayed by print media. The broadsheets, who would once have made or broken a show of this nature, no longer maintain their grasp on the fortunes of the West End. Productions like Viva have the power to transcend the star rating system and connect directly with the fans that hunger for them. Just look at We Will Rock You- still going strong more than a decade after being pretty universally panned by the crits. The 21st century enables theatre goers to express their delight in an ecosystem of conversation and influence.
I embrace the energy of the Now Economy, but I am no digital evangelist. Old and new are symbiotic, and we should avoid throwing out babies with the bathwater. Traditional media still has a hugely significant role to play. But leave the dancing in the aisles to those who really do want to spice up their life.