What's the point? When did you last feel truly inspired by an experience in a theatre?

Emma Earle, 30 June 2012

Circle: Martina Lytton, Rew Lowe, Fran Howard, Lee Simpson, Rosi Croom, Emma Earle, Jojo Townsend, Hannah Drake, Justin Palmer, Tom Sherman

Inspiring experiences:
'Dancing at Lughnasa' by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School at Tobacco Factory. Moving. Felt relevant. Identification with one of the characters in the piece. Whole range of emotions - tears, stunning dance sequence. Being able to talk to the cast afterwards.

Importance of being able to engage in post show discussion - part of the experience - deepens engagement - analysis and evaluation positive.

Value of buying a programme.

Fullness of experience from booking your ticket, walking through door through to leaving.

Feeling part of a community.

Personal choice - what to do at the weekend/in the evening - one of the circle said seeing theatre is their No.1 choice.

Writer in circle's response to “Why bother?” - some of the reasons are selfish, to do with being self-obsessed. Wanting to be involved in making work that can inspire/have a lasting impact.

Moments of connection.

Hairs standing up on neck.

Importance of keeping watching as well as keeping doing.

John Moran's recent work in Mayfest - great analogy for making a show and life in a broader sense.

Does art flourish in a non-funded society? USA used to rely on finding private benefactors.

Culture of dependency can evolve in a funded environment but equally we shouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that government subsidy is a bad thing. Diversity of funding is positive.

Tensions re. Westend/Commercial theatre that doesn't take risks.

What can we learn from the Westend? What is it that makes a mum travel a 300m round trip to London to see a musical when she won't watch her son in a studio piece? - is it important to “see where the money has gone” e.g. sets, large casts etc? More transparent in Westend shows than in small scale work?
- the power of witnessing collective human endeavour on a large scale

Going to the theatre doesn't feel “light” - it feels heavy and risky.

If you see a bad film, you don't have to feel “embarrassed”.

The connection in live theatre is its biggest asset and its biggest liability. Stand up comedy has this but there are feedback mechanisms in place for the audience to engage and have a dialogue with the performer.

Some audiences are fearful of seeing studio theatre because they don't want to be “acted at” in close proximity. Importance of scaling performance level to building and audience often neglected.

'Black Watch' cited as inspiring work. Exciting seeing work in traverse. Beautifully staged. Live music.

'Translunar Paradise' inspiring. Clarity of story in non-verbal perf. Craftsmanship.

French dance theatre company's ‘Des Goudrons et des Plume’ - beautifully subtle. Pina Bausch-esque.

Negative experiences:
Seeing Felicity Kendall's knickers in a production of ‘The Seagull’ at the Old Vic where she didn't acknowledge that it had happened. Collective gasp from audience but no acknowledgment on stage. Everyone in the audience therefore went back to sleep once moment had passed.
- Importance of the relationship between performers and audience.

How do you make going to the theatre effortless for your audience? How do you have a dialogue with audiences?

Problem with theatre architecture? Importance of bars, social spaces. Some theatres feel like spaces you're not supposed to be.

How can we encourage audiences to take risks?

Should we be creating spaces where audiences feel liberated to discuss what they're seeing with their neighbour? The danger of audience heckling e.g. “She's in the attic” at a performance of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’

Can we learn from companies working family/children's theatre? Seeing how hard companies work to engage their audience.

Is devised theatre more successful in terms of its relationship with its audience? e.g. Sally Cookson's ‘Cinderella’?

Sally Cookson's work praised generally.

Sub-culture of Black Theatre with soap opera/comic strip content where audience shout and heckle freely.

Leaned assumptions about theatre and audience's role introduced at school - sit quietly, behave.

Spreading theatre out of space: taking design into foyer and bar, bringing actors out of the theatre space to start culture of show before it begins.

'Les Paraplouilles des Cherbourg'. Mesmerising moment when performer clambered over stalls.

Kneehigh's work commended. Bringing outdoors in. Celebration.

'The Just Price of Flowers' by Stan's Cafe.

'Of All The People In All The World' - Stan's Cafe. One of the last times one of the circle felt truly inspired - and it feels as though this was millions of years ago.

Feeling surprised in a theatre doesn't happen often enough.

For some people, feeling truly inspired happens too rarely. Is there too much work being made? Are people making work without really having anything to say?

Issues with interactive theatre alienating some audiences.

Uninvited Guests at Southbank Centre - ‘Love Letters Straight From Your Heart’. Beauty. Being moved. Crying.

'Sweeney Todd' - Imelda Staunton's performance a masterclass in new-minting thoughts and being technical.


Theatre, audiences, moved, relationship, beauty, point, liveness, making, emotions, bothering, relevance, watching, voice, why, inspiration, theatre