Structures and Techniques of Slapstick
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The dynamics of slapstick in performance and the ways in which an audience responds to that performance are clearly affected by the elements and concepts identified in the previous chapter. There is, however, another key element that needs to be considered and that might best be identified by the term ‘the dynamics of slapstick’. This term refers firstly to the performance and production choices made in relation to the number of performers involved in the slapstick routines. The performance demands on the solo slapstick performer are different to those on the double act. The demands placed on an ensemble cast are different again. The variety in numbers of performers clearly provides different performance opportunities in terms of interaction with props or between performers. Obviously the nature of the audience’s identification with and empathy for a performer or performers is also affected by the number and combination of performers. The dynamics of slapstick performance are also affected by what can be identified as structural elements which have a bearing on the way the slapstick performance develops. The most obvious of these are repetition, inversion, anticipation, escalation and timing. Each of these will be considered in greater depth later in the chapter, drawing on examples from a range of performances, but it will helpful at this point to establish exactly what is meant by each of these phrases.
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