On Saturday I tried out 10 minutes of material from a show I’m developing at Battersea Arts Centre‘s excellent Freshly Scratched evening. Avocado Economics is about: 1) the difficult economic situation for Millennials, and especially the housing crisis 2) our retreat into 90s childhood nostalgia and 3) smashed avocado on toast. Through a PowerPoint presentation and comedic lecture, I presented: a brief history of avocado marketing; a mash-up of the Pokemon theme tune and Tony Blair’s 1997 victory speech; gave everyone a bit of smashed avo on toast; and read an angry, sad poem. Here are my lessons learnt from audience feedback – including these delightful cartoons of avocados the audience drew, completely unprompted!
One thing I wanted to test was whether the core ideas of show idea resonated, and it definitely did for lots of people. They felt: “Angry and vindicated – I knew we had it harder!” and “like nodding my head in agreement.” As this piece tackles more serious and political issues than I usually do in my work, I had some worries about coming across as too earnest, sincere, and preachy. I think I largely avoided this – “interesting”, “informative” and “funny” were the common words used to describe it.
This is my favourite positive feedback – that some audience were “amused by the show, disappointed at the reality”, “Delighted. And a bit terrified / sad.” and “Nostalgic. Angry.” I didn’t know it until people wrote it – and this is why scratch is so much more useful than just helping with practical feedback – but this is want people to feel as they watch this show.
There are things to improve around presentation of data though: “Maybe graphs / statistics could be simplified to pack more punch”, and some of the advice was super practical: “You need more lemon juice in the smashed avo.”
A few people said it would make a great TED Talk, and others weren’t sure about it being theatre: “This isn’t theatre? But an economics lecture made palatable.” This is a slight worry for me, as this piece moves away from my usual ‘stand-up poet’ style towards something more theatrical. Dave Gorman does stand-up lectures and bills himself as comedy, Gary McNair’s Crunch played with the form and was theatre… It feels like an on-going issue with pieces that combine genres: is it theatre, comedy, neither? I don’t have an answer for this, but I do need to bear it in mind.
Last enjoyable bits of feedback: “It’s like Freakonomics meets the Food Channel.” – there’s a quote for the poster! “You took things I knew and turned them into
gold – pure green.” Excellent work :). “Didn’t get any avocado :(. Or a house 😦 😦 :(.” I’m sorry on both counts. The whole experience of scratching at BAC has convinced me that this show is my next big project, and it was ultimately reinforced by one audience comment I am grateful for:“Good strong message. Please keep fighting this fight!”. Thank you, whoever wrote that: I will try.
Here’s the complete set of feedback in avocado-coloured word-cloud form, because word-clouds are pretty, and pretty useful too. Huge thanks to the audience for all the feedback, and to BAC for creating space for artists to take risks and try out very new work – and for picking me to be one of those artists this time round.