Conservatism in Theatre 2

17 Jul

A post in which I use a capital T when I write the word Truth, and so prove I’m a serious Thinker.

I recently discussed the effect of conservatism on theatre criticism. Now I’d like to focus on its effect on performance.

We still work in the shadow of a great reaction – the reaction to nineteenth century melodrama.

In this reaction, Truth became the new standard.

It is still the watchword of most artists’ theatre practice.

But there’s a worm in its heart.

How do you judge if something is the Truth? [I’m going to deliberately ignore the issue of how do you then represent it.]

Something is True if it corresponds with what you already know. Perhaps you can see where I’m going?

Something is True in the theatre if it corresponds with what has already happened.

In other words, nothing that happens in the theatre actually matters.

Conservatism is the belief that all the important things have already happened and all the big decisions have already been made.* It’s the belief that they can’t happen in the theatre.

But they do.

Theatre makers don’t just reflect the Truth. We make it. Or, at least, we make something just as important.

When Jesus of Nazareth told his parables, or Aesop his fables, the response “that’s never happened” somewhat missed the point.

Plays present not just Truths, but also Ways of Seeing.

Ok, it’s a half a glass of water. But it’s not Truth that makes us See that glass as either half full or half empty.

So, if a piece of theatre doesn’t appear truthful, maybe its not.

Maybe it’s original.

 Veronica Kaye

Theatre Red

* Once I again think I might have borrowed this line – but I don’t know where from!

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