I am so intrigued by Mark Lawson’s article “Naked appeal: is it OK to find actors attractive?” which appeared in The Guardian yesterday. It discusses the appropriateness of reactions to nude or near nude actors on stage and the apparent double standard that takes place between the sexes on the issue. He tells how he has just attended two musicals in the west end, The Bodyguard and Viva Forever! In both there were loud whoops and cheers from women (and probably some men) in the audience when male forms were exposed. This was accepted by most of the audience and the play continued. As opposed to his experience at an all female Julius Caesar in which a woman gets naked and the house (rightfully so) remained silent. Granted that these are two very different experiences, I do think that standard holds. When I saw Equs on Broadway a few years back, there was defiantly distinctly female vocal reaction to Daniel Radcliff’s, countered with silent respect for his female counterpart.
I can defiantly hop on board for both sides of this argument. I have performed in various states of dress, never fully nude but close, and I could have used a whoop or two to boost my confidence that I was not hard to look at. I remember a great joy when a certain playwright referred to me as a hunk after one of my performances. That being said I understand the feeling that these things detract from what is actually happening in the play.
This is an interesting topic to look at sociologically, and see if there is anything that should be or can be done to change it. But for theatre makers I think that the important thing is to accept that this is how our audience reacts. Anything that is put on stage is an invitation to reaction, we cannot control what that might be but we can look at these trends and anticipate.