Is Theatre obsolete?

Now, as much as I love theatre – I can’t help but question it. Especially when looking at political theatre. Do people still listen to theatre as a force of change? Does it influence people’s opinions. Does it still work in the same way it did – When Stanislavski changed it into what it is today? Or has it become an nonentity?

With Theatre rapidly being replaced by Media and Social networking – Who’s to say that it won’t become obsolete within the next few years? People go to the cinema often, and watch TV weekly, if not everyday. But how many of you can say that you’ve been to the theatre within the last 2 months? Or better yet – seen a political play within the 6? Theatre is a rapidly declining form of entertainment- especially as it is not as accessible as TV or film.  Theatre is expensive. To go to, to run, to be a part of. Shows in the west end are popping up and closing as soon as they turned up.

And when people do go to the theatre – the most common things are pantomimes or big commercial musicals – which as an art form – are brilliant. But they are a minority in the larger world of theatre. How many of you can say – if you’ve been to London – that you’ve seen a show in the royal court theatre – one of the leaders of theatre in the western world? How many of you can say you’ve been to the Apollo Theatre where Wicked plays? Or any equally as commercial musical? The numbers will be far greater – and I can’t talk. I haven’t seen a show at the Royal Court- however I have seen countless number of musicals – including Wicked.

…However. Theatre has survived so far. During depressions and economic crisis, one would think theatre would be the first to go, and theatre stayed strong – people thrived on theatre as a source of propaganda and hope in a time of need. I think this is because it provides a sense of community. When you are all gathered there to see a show. It provides an atmosphere that media cannot provide. And it has more influence than one might think. Seeing actual people on stage perform these stories – or even the words of real people, if looking at Verbatim theatre – it connects to the audience in a way that other art forms don’t. And in that way – influences people in what they think, and how they act in society.

Theatre isn’t obsolete and is actually thriving in our society – tackling relevant problems all the time- showing our society in a way that we will receive it and make us want to change it.  The classics stay timeless – and the contemporary stay modern and fresh.

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality
but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Theory or Practical Based learning

I visited Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD) and Royal Holloway (RHUL) down in London this weekend. I looked at the Drama and Theatre studies course at RHUL – and the Acting Course, and Drama, Applied Theatre and Education course at CSSD. And it lead me to question – Which is better? Theory or Practical based learning. They each have their pros and their drawbacks. I thought for a while – that I wanted to learn the theory behind the acting, before I started actually looking at open days. And I knew for definite that I wanted to study drama and not just acting. However after looking into it, I find myself confused. The Drama courses seem to look at the theory- so that it can be applied practically -which sounds brilliant. However the acting courses seem very intense and professional. And will allow more actual skills for employability- whereas Drama provides a wider base degree. By providing a lot- It doesn’t provide very much. Also there is the issue that it is easier to get into Drama programs – than Acting programs. The Acting programs have very little writing in comparison to Drama- where it is over 50% writing. Therefore the Drama programs provide more transferable skills, the Acting program providing specific skills.  So I put it to you. Which do you think is better? Theory or Practical based learning?

War Horse to close?

War Horse, after a seven year run, at the National Theatre is due to close in 2016. Producer Chris Harper said: “War Horse has wowed audiences around the world, and we are incredibly proud of what the show has achieved over the last eight extraordinary years. It has been a privilege to bring Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel to the stage and to share this beautiful story of love and friendship with audiences.”

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A beautiful story of love and friendship indeed. However after it finishes it’s run It will go on a nationwide tour to finish the show. I have actually seen this show a few times and I adore it. It is very hard for me to have favourites when it comes to theatre and books and all that. This is definitely my favourite play, and it never fails to move me. It does what theatre should do and it makes you feel things, and think about the world we live. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel love, or sadness or even despair. But it makes you feel something. The story is heartwarming – The staging is innovative and creative, using a backdrop above the action to represent a soldiers diary. The lighting fantastic. The set simplistic, using Brechtian influences- partnered with amazing music, truly bringing it to life. It has an amazing atmosphere and I implore you to go see it, if you have a chance before it closes. I personally am very sad to see it go.  

“Maybe there are different ways to be brave. Did you know the French have the best carrier pigeons? And this could be the difference in the war. Our messages getting through. There are released from the front and told to go home. This is all they know. But to get there they must fly over a war. It’s like… you are flying over so much pain and terror… and you know you can never look down. You have to look forward, or you’ll never get home. I ask you, what could be braver than that?”

Oscar Wilde

LADY BRACKNELL: Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice . . . as far as any improvement in his ailment goes. Well, Algernon, of course if you are obliged to be beside the bedside of Mr. Bunbury, I have nothing more to say. But I would be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when every one has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.

I love Oscar Wilde, and I think this is a brilliant little monologue. Lady Bracknell is such a strong character – embodying the victorian ethics. If she says no, the answer is no- There is no way around that, even if it’s a matter of life and death, according to this monologue.

Why Stanislavski annoys me.

Yes. Stanislavski is amazing – and he founded modern theatre. And he tried something radical in a communist oppressive regime. And he changed the way people saw theatre as an art and a profession – turning a career that was once represented by drunken idiots – into one, which was portrayed with the highest level of sophistication and intelligence.

And I am grateful to him for that.

However after reading his books – I find him extremely vain, it being very easy to open a book of his and open it onto any page and find something ‘amazing’ about him. With Stanislavski writing it as him – ‘The amazing director that can put no foot wrong’ and ‘the best student in the class’.

But not just his vanity or pretentiousness that bugs me. He focuses mainly on naturalism and says everything must be done how it would be done off the stage… however – he also states that you must learn everything again for the stage – walk, talk, move, everything. There comes a point where everything is so meticulously planned and discussed – because everything must have a reason and a specific movement- that it becomes stylised and unrealistic. Stanislavski is so contradictory it hurts my brain to read about him.

Nonetheless – I still admire him as a practitioner – and everything he has done for theatre – just not necessarily him as a person.