Friday, June 24, 2011

Theatre is NOT boring.

This is a response to Don't be So Boring, you can access Anthony Neilson's article for The Guardian here for a reference. Anthony Neilson is a playwright who wrote the Wonderful World of Dissocia and having written such a marvelous work is perhaps hasty in making broad-sweeping statements about what he terms to be "serious" theatre.

First up I want to get something straight: theatre is not boring. Theatre is an incredibly adaptive, dynamic form and it has an immense power in live performance to effect an audience. As a friend was informing me over coffee this morning even 'bad' theatre initiates a response - people leaving during a show are affected and they respond accordingly. Passivity is not an option and option when at great theatre. It asks you to invest all of your senses in the experience of the characters and because of it's very live-ness it involves you.

Theatre is a also a collaborative art form and it is part of the role of the playwright to respond to this reality. Plays exist to be engaged with by writers, actors, directors, producers, designers, crew and audiences. Theatre can be read, it can be performed, it can be studied and the fact that it exists in different states is definitely not boring. Story might be a god but there are many others in the Parthenon.

Ironically its because of its adaptability and its openess to interpretation that theatre is a medium that comes under such pressure from both inside and outside the industry. We are constantly being told that it is an out-dated medium that is irrelevant and unworthy of our attention. Anthony Neilson argues that it is "serious" theatre than is alienating audiences and that spectacle needs to be injected onto the stage. Well, not all theatre needs to be the same. The fact that the form is so diverse is actually a positive thing.

Here in Melbourne in one week you can see the new musical Doctor Zhivago at Her Majesty's Theatre; Manacle at La Mama and She Turned Out the Light at the La Mama Courthouse; Lally Katz's explosive new work Golem Story at the Malthouse; then Rock of Ages at the Comedy Theatre and The Horror Face down at MKA's pop up theatre. This is all before even investigating all the gorgeous little independent and student theatre venues across the city and is testament to the just how not boring theatre is. All this is much more fun than sitting down in front of the telly all week - as addictive as Masterchef can be.

Now, I adore musicals, they are fantastic theatrical experiences, but the fact that they are awesome does not mean that The Seagull needs a jaunty tune. Then again separating "serious" theatre from musicals is just silly, it's all theatre. Let's embrace the 'depth and breadth' of theatre for what it can be rather than trying to re-define what it is.

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