Sometimes when I think of theatre, I think of it as this kind of strange, youthful old dude (or dudette, whatever takes your fancy), a malformed cousin of everything else, exiled by the family but still welcome enough to be invited to the annual Christmas dinner. He’s kind of got this funny hair thing happening, walks around muttering poetry beneath his breath, slaps in you in the face when you’re not looking and goes on to tell jokes that are either really effective or deeply forgettable but then occasionally comes out of nowhere at parties and steals everyone’s attention. He was big once: real big. In fact, if you hang around him long enough he’ll tell you all these stories about how once he was the only thing anyone spent their leisure money on and that he was best friends with everyone in Europe. Now though, people talk about him with a kind of a more weary affection, ‘Oh yes, The Theatre… he’s doing okay. Still paying the rent, I hear… I should really say hello sometime.’ At gatherings he sits there in the corner, minding his own business, smoking a cigarette, doing his own crazy, wild thing.
He’s old but he doesn’t act like it. He swaps gramophones for I-Pods in a heartbeat and listens to all the great Indie bands from Yugoslavia whilst still quoting Macbeth. But theatre is also a pretty poor guy, he’s not exactly rolling in it, but people find it charming when he produces little beacons of gold or when he unloads a gigantic musical for everyone to come and see. And when you do go to see him, you kind of hold your stomach in knowing that things could go either way, but you pat him on the back and wish him well for trying anyway when so many people are simply walking straight past him. He’s got charm that old fella – even if others don’t see it.
While this is probably a complete stereotype of theatre (the poor guy can’t catch a break), you can’t help but wonder where he stands now in relation to all his other brothers and sisters, like T.V and Film. Yeah sure, Theatre goes out and does some pretty crazy things from time to time, but Television at the moment seems to be rocking up to all the gigs, getting all the attention and driving around in a shiny new Ferrari so everyone can see. Which is fair enough when you think about it. T.V is friends with pretty much everyone after all and particularly those with deep pockets. T.V is throwing everyone a great time, producing some absolute diamonds of art and still grounded enough not to do an academic analysis of itself while wearing a fedora.
Just the other day, T.V was talking about theatre in such a dreary way: ‘oh yeah, that old codger, he’ll be dead soon…only the truly devoted see him in his nursing home now. Apparently he still pulls tricks. Charming bugger.’
But it’s important to note that everything has its right place.
Sure, theatre may no longer be the most popular guy in the workplace despite winning employee of the month right through the Elizabethan era. Sure, he might now only have fifty friends on Facebook whereas in his heyday he had fifty thousand, but that doesn’t mean he should be forgotten, and just as crucially, we can’t forget all the hard work he put in so that we could enjoy what T.V and Film now offer us. Look to the likes of Deadwood, The Wire and particularly House of Cards and one will find narratives completely drenched in Shakespearean-esque tales, with the latter even frequently breaking the fourth wall in asides akin to those in Richard 3rd. Theatre has provided these forms with a strong, foundational back-bone.
And just as Theatre has helped given his buddies a leg up into the future, nor has he stayed behind, indulging in history either. The guy’s moving forward, trying on new things, changing up his routine. He isn’t afraid to introduce you to all the strange, wacky cats he’s got under the floorboards and yet he isn’t afraid to show you the photo album of the good old times either.
In short, theatre is looking at a changing world, but the curtain won’t be falling on him anytime soon.
Keep sharp buddy.