Theatre as just a Trick

11 May

Early in my education I came across a notion that deeply disturbed me.

A drama teacher told me, “It’s not what they say, but how they say it.”

As someone approaching theatre with what I can only describe as a ravenous spiritual hunger, I refused to see it reduced to a series of well executed tricks.

I didn’t want the ultimate accolade to be that a piece of theatre said well (efficiently? effectively?) what we all already knew.

There were (are) so many things I didn’t know. I didn’t want an art form that was so complacent. I didn’t want to be served stones when I needed bread.

Over time, I came to realise that large numbers of audience members see theme as just another technique. Just as a recurring motif, say the animal imagery in Macbeth, creates an attractive textual coherence, so apparently does theme. The fact that both Macbeth and his wife suffer for their crimes is not the meaning of the piece, but rather just a pleasing aesthetic tidiness.

Appreciating the view

Appreciating the view

As I have grown older this view of theatre shocks me less. I’ve come to accept that people will attempt to inoculate themselves from art. In terms of theatre, most people do this by not going. Those of us  forced to go – because of career, or the pursuit of career – adopt other methods.

Most of us don’t want to be changed. We don’t want to be challenged.

And, considering the lives of unparalleled privilege that most of us enjoy, that’s perfectly understandable.

Veronica Kaye

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