In the age of cross-multi-slash-intertextual media, is theatre short-changing itself?

Convener(s): Alan Wen

Participants: Fiona Watson

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Cross-multi-media can be a good thing, other use of media in a stage production can enhance the performance and experience. Ultimately a medium is a tool. 

Similarly, theatre practitioners are often multi-disciplinary (acting, directing, producing) = more skills to achieve aims

But theatre does shortchange itself when it is not honest, i.e. when medium is used not to advance function (e.g. in traditional theatre, tell the story)

Good use of media on stage: Frost/Nixon, TV close-up replicating the historic close-up on stage

But what about using AV in scene transitions or as projected backdrops? Jarring attempts to make a poor man’s film fit into the arena of theatre

Theatre is supposed to be something we can actively engage in and use our imagination to fill what isn’t there.

AV and other multimedia can be abused, perhaps down to poor vision of directors/producers – so are they shortchanging themselves? Cross-media has uses and effects but don’t try and make a play if it’s intended to be a film – appreciate each medium’s strengths

What about cross-media as in adaptations plaguing the West End – Disney musicals, Grease, Dirty Dancing, The Sound of Music, Bad Girls, Rain Man = stage plays trying to be like films. Does that not also shortchange the audience who are essentially forking out £30+ for a shoddier imitation (bastardized hybrid) of what has been seen on screen (audience expectations will be to see a replica of what they know from the screen) which they might as well do in the comfort of their living room with a cheap rental?

Note: unfair to suggest this is only happening in theatre – many great films adapted from books/plays; novelisations of films; film becomes play becomes play!

Popular/classic films serve as brands – can be a way to draw in new audiences from the general public. But does that not also devalue their expectation and imagination of what the basic principles and experience of theatre can offer?