The Nimiety/Iniquity of The Spectacle - Theatre In The Era Of Bread And Circuses

Roger Hill, 2 October 2012

This proceeded from my feeling that large-scale spectacle was diminishing theatre generally by eating up public money, providing a passive media-based experience for audiences and emphasizing a false idea of participation.

During the conversation spectacle was used to refer to events as diverse as.-

The Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Giants in Liverpool

Events in Beijing at the Millennium and Olympics there

Large-scale public demonstrations like the London march against the Iraq War

Balinese ceremonies

Processions to celebrate Santa Rosalia in Sicily

The Manchester Day Parade

Hitler's Nuremberg rallies and we looked forward to what Rio may offer in its Olympic Year

Ideas explored included,-

The authentic non-spectacular secular communion of the early rave period

The cultural incomprehension of various other countries seeing the Olympic Opening

Ceremony on television

Events created only for television

The use of spectacle to “cleanse” locations of unwanted elements, eg, the homeless

Volunteer participation in spectacles as a false argument for the advance of co-opted and coerced “volunteering” in a society which seeks to regulate access to benefits

Spectacle which causes nations to look inwards rather than outwards to the wider context and world

The tyranny of the mass who will respond to a questioning of spectacle as though this was negative and anti-social

The use of a spectacle to celebrate the NHS when the actual political process is working to destroy it

The real subversion/release (in Aristotelian terms) offered by laughter/dance/singing and amazement, all of which work on a deep physical level

The distancing effect of media-relayed spectacle as opposed to the real, shared ownership of experience offered by live theatre

The need, when spectacle has grown as big as it can go, to concentrate on small intense experiences shared by more intimate audiences, eg, the recent production of “The Matchbox”

The dangers of negative gathering, eg, mob rule, mass scapegoating and the need to distinguish between physical communion based upon shared cathartic experience and fascistic mind-based manipulation of mass feeling

The impossibility of creating theatre based on a formula derived from spectacle

The need to save theatre from being used in an instrumentalist way to direct behaviour

The potential value of spectacle in bringing people together in shared community settings, eg, The Giants

In an age when government would aspire to the situation where “everything which is not forbidden is compulsory” to find those moments and spaces where government diktat does not rule and try to expand their potential for spontaneous and authentically chthonic expressions of conviction and feeling.


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