In the theatre world, they talk about the space between the audience and the stage as the ‘fourth wall’ with some performances relying on the wall being ‘down’ to allow audience participation, and others frowning upon it. Actor, singer and cabaret performer Melissa Langton is far happier when she’s breaching that wall.
When I did Les Miserables I had this one little scene where I'd skid all the way across the stage and when I got to the end of the skid, I'd try and get close to the audience and eyeball whoever that one person was, and I used to get told off all the time by the director for breaking the fourth wall. Because with shows like Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera there is no audience participation; it’s almost like you're watching a movie, unlike cabaret or shows like Pirates of Penzance, which I did with Jon English, he obviously loved breaking the fourth wall too.
‘My strength, and when I have the most fun, is when I'm communicating with the audience, not when I'm just standing in a spotlight and singing, because that just feels a bit weird,’ Melissa says.
And if she needed any proof of her audience’s delight in having the fourth wall down, she doesn’t need to look any further than the multiple cups of tea – white with two sugars – waiting for her in the foyer during the intermission.
‘About halfway through the show, I'll often go, “I could really do with a cup of tea. If anyone feels like bringing me a cup of tea afterwards in the foyer, I'd love it.” And sometimes I'll come out and there'll be like 12 cups of tea coming at me. It’s really lovely.’
Watch Melissa's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.