Is theatre really dead?

In an age of digital entertainment, why do we still have theatre?

“One can dare anything in the theatre.”[1] We have all seen some form of theatre, with friends, or with family, and one can only hope that you were entertained and inspired by what you saw. However, technology is rapidly advancing, and in this day and age, children and adults can be perfectly entertained by Hollywood’s latest motion picture from the comfort of their sofa, rather than going to the theatre. So why does such a thing still exist in our society?

Many people would argue that the special effects and high definition in film today renders a trip to the theatre unneeded. But I feel that they are wrong. I am fortunate to have received a varied education and from this, my experience of theatre was born. Theatre fascinates me, and when I had the opportunity to explore Paris earlier this year, I admired the breath-taking buildings where theatre is brought to life each night, such as the comedie and the odeon. I found it astounding that some people’s lives had not been touched by theatre, and these people did not understand the concept of live performance, or even why we have it. Richard Eyre remarks on the atmosphere of Peter Brook’s ‘Bouffes de Nord’ theatre, “The stone steps layer on layer of human presence, a touch of oriental in the tracery above the proscenium”[2] The aesthetics of a traditional theatre and the entire formality of the experience differ entirely from film, in that theatre is a much more inter-communicative thing. While reflecting on this thought, I wondered, would theatre ever die? Those who are involved in the theatre industry appreciate its meaning and importance, and seem to know why it is regarded a higher pleasure in our culture. Yet, some people are ignorant to the world behind the stage doors. Through an interview I constructed myself; I was able to ask Mark Rylance: the former artistic director of the Globe Theatre, why he thought theatre remained strong. His response was, “Theatre unites people in a space where greater, deeper, emotional and soulful communication can take place- As technology isolates us further from each other, the theatre will become even more popular.” I must agree that in an age of faceless communication through technology, it is important for us to try and maintain that area of life which focuses on human interaction and communication. Theatre thrives on glorifying human talent, and expressing what we as a species are capable of. During the process of making a film, a scene can be shot numerous times before it is perfect, and any glitches can be cleverly edited out. In theatre, however, anything can happen, and we must revel in the fact that what we are watching is truthful and real. “Theatre is to celebrate what it is to be human, spontaneous, and fallible and brilliant.”[3] At its most basic, I believe the human condition to be about communication, we like telling and hearing stories. Getting together with a group of people you have never met before, yet have all made the decision to watch the same story is extremely special. Witnessing people explore their true talent without multiple takes and clever effects make theatre something that will never be absent in our world.

[1] Ionesco, E. Notes and Counter Notes: Writings on theatre, January 1964, Mary ProQuest UMI, Fifth reprint ed.

[2] Eyre, R. Talking Theatre: Interviews with theatre people, October 18 2011, Nick Hern Books, Reprint ed.

[3] Anonymous- Harrogate Theatre (Personal Interview)

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