This week I had my first experience of a hustings in the UK. I was curious to see what it would be like and I wanted to hear a bit more from my local candidates running in the General Election.

I’m interested in politics with a lower case “p” in so far as I like to have an overall idea of what’s happening and the effects of government policies. But, this was definitely an occasion for people who are Political with a capital “P”.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I guess I knew it had the potential to become a little heated, but it was very near to how I imagine an Elizabethan audience might have behaved. There was a lot of heckling and grumbling under breath, as if the fact that politicians were speaking was enough of a reason to shout at them regardless of who they were, what they were saying, or which party they represented.

The only thing missing was someone selling oranges or cabbages to hurl at the candidates. Although there were biscuits and tea, so I suppose that’s somewhat more civilized, but it certainly wasn’t far off being thrown by people in the audience.

To be fair, I haven’t attended anything similar in Canada around election time, so I don’t really have something with which to compare it. I do think it’s fascinating though that, in certain settings, behaviours like this are no longer acceptable - such as at the theatre, even if you’ve paid a large amount for a ticket and aren’t very impressed with the performance…

In the case of politics, however, it seems that people are more interested in making everyone else around them very loudly aware of their opinions even if it means that those around them can’t actually hear what the politicians are saying!

As actors, we know what it takes to put ourselves out there in front of other people and to stand up and be in the vulnerable position of having everyone else’s critical eyes on you. Whatever your feelings about politicians, I imagine some of them must feel the same way?

Well, now I know what a hustings is all about - a weird piece of performance that seems to give an audience the license to cheer and applaud for their favourite character and hiss and heckle at the baddies! Pantomime, perhaps? That’s another British experience I have yet to have…