Is there space for fun and adventure in theatre today???

Convener(s):Sam Bailey 

Participants: Lots of lovely people! 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

So it seems that it is down to the general dreariness of British people as a whole, that a lot of theatre lacks an honest sense of fun!

The group discussed that, from an industry angle, an element of professionalism is necessary in terms of creating theatre and importantly obtaining funding. Simply, if it does not say something or mean something important to the current climate, it isn’t worth putting on.

The term ‘Victim Theatre’ was coined in terms of performances which draw on human emotions in an indulgent way to the extent that the audience is not included in this and so simply watch someone ball up and cry. Suggestions were made about how to re-invigorate this and share these feelings with the audience.

In terms of fun and adventure, the key elements involved are through the audience not only changing from a passive one to an active one and understanding that they are as much a part of the story as the performers, but also become aware of each other. This sense of camaraderie can promote a great atmosphere in a show. The feeling that you are part of a larger group responding to something is a powerful tool.

Surprise is also as important. Breaking what knowledge the audience have of a theatrical experience by doing something out of the norm. e.g. interacting with them before the show actually begins and continuing with them afterwards, catch people off guard and generate much more interest.

One group member commented on a Peter Brook play which left the audience discussing it with each other afterwards. We felt that, the nature of the British and, specifically Londoners, is not to open up to others. This is no secret. I myself hate talking about theatre in front of other people for fear of saying the wrong thing. The same with public transport. We don’t know it, but Londoners have the most intimate times out of all European countries by simply travelling by tube in the rush hour. So why no light banter? The other night, on the night bus home, I was shocked to find everyone chatting to each other. I had to ask them why they were laughing and shouting jokes from the front to the back of the bus. The reason: someone who had overdone it had thrown up on themselves on the back seat. I was warmed by everyone’s cheeriness, but saddened by the fact it took the exiting of bodily fluids to kick-start everyone’s social charms!

So it is a case of, HOW do we change this?

Children’s theatre was acknowledged as a key method of appealing to everyone’s sense of awe and wonderment. Despite our age, we can all remember what it was like to stare upwards at something and lose control of our jaw through excitement. It is exactly that feeling that we wish to create. When was the last time you said, “Wow”? A sense of adventure can be created through a real sensory experience, which is something we may have lost sight of in recent times!

The trouble is that we don’t seem to want it. People would rather go and see a piece of shitty serious theatre and complain about it than go and see something which is fun and adventurous for the sake of it. We need, fun. It’s important! During the war, theatres were closed for safety reasons. They were then re-opened soon after, when the population felt they couldn’t express themselves and have fun!

There was a lovely point about the possibility of the climate change having a positive effect by making us more susceptible to fun and mirth. Thus allowing ourselves to accept it into our day to day lives.

Invisible theatre and theatre in the public, designed to cheer ‘em all up, can and does happen. If it cheers someone up, do it. Why not, It will give them something to talk about! We discussed some rules that should apply! There should be no intimidation or alienation involved. If you do something in the public eye, do it for the public. So no scaring people or intimidating them. Really think about the reason your doing it and if it is not going to change someone’s mood for the better, don’t do it! If you need to invade someone’s personal space in a performance, e.g. putting a blindfold, earn their trust first.

The audience should be worshipped, not used.