The crowd has been well-behaved as dusk settles over the amphitheatre. The early warm up acts were fun for passing time until the main event, but may not be memorable. Except that one guy that… but I digress. Night arrives swiftly at this place, so it almost seems as if someone has simply thrown a switch and turned off the sky. Then, as our eyes adjust, we realize that he also turned on the stars.
Everyone quickly settles back into their seats as the amphitheatre plunges from navigable to one giant tripping hazard. We all quiet with anticipation.
The stage lights come up to reveal a contraption of some sort on an empty stage.
It fires bundles into the front three rows that turn out to be ponchos. Nervous laughter ensues, but the front three rows also don the ponchos.
The device spins around. As it turns, spotlights reflect off it and scan the crowd. It stops, with a pin spot reflected onto a single seat, near an aisle. The other spotlight operators turn their lights around and join in, The seat is empty. Which seems a little strange in an otherwise sold-out house. The lights go off for a moment, then on, as all the spot operators blink their shutters in unison. Now the seat is occupied.
The occupant is dressed a little more formally than the rest of the audience. After a moment, he stands, and the crowd begins to realize that this was his entrance. He makes his way to the stage.
From that beginning, the show got weird.
At one point, he was juggling kids borrowed from the audience.
He set up a series of gramophones, and attempted to identify which was producing live sound and not a recording with the help of a small dog.
He did a knife catching act with dull knives.
It was strange and wondrous. All the professional performers who saw him were green with envy at his management of the crowd’s attention.
He did things that every critic had panned with their typical poisoned pens. But it probably didn’t help that his final bit was designed to annoy critics. He even said so from the stage, pointing out that by and large most critics would have already filed their reviews of his show by that point, so it was perfectly safe to mock them.
When the house lights came up, the audience response was immense.