My Kind of Michael: Nick Cassenbaum, bald and in a suit, hugs a cardboard cut-out of Michael Barrymore. Big white letters spell My Kind of Michael

Guest Blog: Nick Cassenbaum and his relationship to the audience

| Wed 24 Apr 2019

Nick Cassenbaum starts his UK Tour of My Kind of Michael at artsdepot in May. In this guest blog, he explains how Michael Barrymore's people skills influenced the style of the show.

I am really excited to bring my show My Kind of Michael to artsdepot. The show follows Michael Barrymore’s rise to fame and his fall, and how he shaped my life. When me and my co-writer Danny Braverman sat down to write this show, we knew there were certain points in his life we needed to show. Also we had to choose moments in my life that showed how Barrymore influenced it.

We had plenty to choose from. But what we really wanted to show was what made Barrymore special, what made him such an important figure in my life but also in the nation's heart. In the process of making the show this would affect not only the content through stories, but also the form of the piece through looking at his techniques as a performer.

Barrymore’s talent was with people. He was able to get the best out of anyone he worked with. His skill was all about making you feel like you were the star and with him you could do no wrong. Whatever you said to him was celebrated... even if he acted being annoyed. He was a master at audience interaction and making you feel comfortable the second he spoke to you. When we set out to make the show we knew we wanted this to be the experience of people who came to see My Kind of Michael.

But we also knew that audience interaction often turns people off right away. We had to think very carefully about how we did it, how we created an environment where members of the audience felt happy to jump on stage with me, and others felt ‘I wish that was me’, not ‘thank goodness he didn’t pick me!’. This became the driving force of the creation of the show.

Recreating the work of a master was not something we would take lightly. We thought technically about the incremental increases of interaction, from light chatting at the beginning to full blown acting on stage with me, about how we could use interaction as a narrative device and make the audience feel like they are part of this. The final goal with audiences is to make them feel like they are part of a community in the theatre and that every member who goes on stage is their representative.

If we get this right no one will see what is going on but they will feel it. Feel part of something, feel like how Barrymore made people feel.

Nick Cassenbaum is on Twitter. You can see all tour dates for My Kind of Michael on his website.

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