Thursday, 10 March 2011

Why I love the theatre...

I love the theatre because it combines many arts in one – from writing and music, to set and costume design, as well as acting and dance or movement choreography.

Beyond that, anything that happens live is great. A play is recreated every time it is performed. It’s not exactly the same over and over again like a film. The audience’s experience is unique.

The audience plays a role in creating atmosphere which the actors feed off. We wait with anticipation to see the drama unfold...and the actors rise to that occasion and respond to each other. No-one knows what’s going to happen that night. Within this confluence, there’s an unknown factor. It’s risky.

Peter O’Toole once said, “Oh, it's painful seeing it all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed. Once a thing is solidified it stops being a living thing. That's why I love the theatre. It's the ‘Art of the Moment’. I'm in love with ephemera and I hate permanence.”

The very best actors learn how to identify, internalise and magnify the feelings of a character. They have a special gift and can be “fully present” when expressing a character’s intent to the outside world.

“Acting is making words into flesh,” according to O’Toole. He, “love[d] classical acting because... you need the vocal range of an opera singer...the movement of a ballet have to be able to's turning your whole body into a musical instrument on which you yourself play.”

It takes amazing abilities of empathy to transpose a character into your being as an actor. The best actors portray characters as if he or she were real. The period or country in which a play was written should have no consequence. Actors have to live and breathe the motivations and the voice of their characters and bounce off the rest of the cast to create something that’s truly special.

We go to the theatre to be inspired and entertained, to learn and to seek answers about ourselves. We identify and we berate, we admire and we admonish.

It’s a really tough one to choose my top ten plays as I’ve seen or read thousands of plays...but generally only once. Despite this, there are things which have made an indelible impression on me to the extent that I can visualise the set at "curtain up" in my mind. And I can replay the drama that unfolds. 

The fact that something "stays with me" is as good a sense I can get that it's good. Although I recognise the fact that perhaps I just needed that work of art at that moment my life, I was inspired by exceptional direction or acting, or perhaps my field of reference was more limited when I encountered the play. Value in the world of the arts can be so subjective.

In no particular order, my top ten plays at this moment in time are:

- Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
- Art by
Yasmina Reza
- The History Boys by
Alan Bennet
- Welcome to Thebes by Moira Buffini
- The Glass Menagerie by Tenesse Williams
- The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
- The Tempest by William Shakespeare
- King Lear by William Shakespeare
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
- The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov

There are many other plays have “spoken to” or “entertained” me, but don’t quite make the cut as lasting works of art. Just missing out on this list are Aristophone’s The Birds as well as Michael Morpurgo’s Warhorse

I shall reflect on each work in subsequent posts...and make a point of re-reading them. It's something that I so rarely do. I'm drawn to the new and un-encountered in general. Life is so full of possibility...which is a good note to end on.

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