Theatre is a word derived from the ancient Greek term 'theatron' meaning "semi-circular, tiered, stone seats for viewing performances." Audiences would sit and behold plays, dances, and tragedies in the space made by its configuration of seating. Theatre is, in present day, a place to behold all kinds of performances, yet now it sits in a contemporary, postmodern context, retaining its ancient magnetism, and can happen in all kinds of places. It provokes the simplest of human activities, that of inhabiting space, driven by the desire to communicate an idea. The communication may come in the form of linguistically embroidered speech, a thousand petals falling from an unseen trigger in the rigging, to a small dust mite scooting across a beam of light.
Theatre is a place where people experience a created world in three-dimensions without glasses, popcorn, and fifteen minutes of wide screen advertising. It is a place where human beings don’t need inoculations and a passport to get to, but still feel unnerved, challenged, and provoked by the alien nature, volatility, and atmosphere of the given circumstances they observe. The theatre protects love stories, and stories of human frailties that would make a Dalek cry. Inside the theatre, there are experiences of an ‘other worldly’ nature, created by people who are experts at what they do. It is a place where we can cheer for the good guys, and boo the bad, void of peer pressure and social restraint.
The theatre turns back memory and wields the power to turn thoughts into the future. It promotes a dissection and exploration of the human condition, and a sensory expansion of the art of communicating. Theatre is a place where people like me feel like they belong. It is a community of creativity and striving for vision. So if the theatre offers all these things and is now more than a place of sitting to watch, what exactly is it? Is it a place where people who can’t handle a ‘real job’ take refuge? Is it a cross between a brothel and a bookstore? Is it a respite home for the dying art of storytelling? Or is it a novelty for privileged caste stereotypes to enjoy a ‘bloody good tragedy’ and a chardonnay? It can be all those things and more.
As we grow as human beings, in a pulsating hub of ideas and appointments, what is the thing that keeps us booking time for theatre, turning off the TV, and walking past Blockbuster, training for years and searching for new tools and new ways to express ideas? Is it the sense of theatre being an ever-growing, postmodernist organism that regenerates itself on the outcomes of human evolution? Are theatre and human beings dependent on one another for growth? Theatre feeds us; it is a nurturer of the spirit. In that sense, theatre is a parental influence on our contemporary culture. It allows us to suckle inspiration, imagination, to think, to feel, to observe, to believe and to be lost for while, safely. In other words, it loves, unconditionally.
Stella Adler once said "The theatre is a spiritual and social X-ray of its time." This has not changed. And like an X –ray, it detects breaks in social structures, and confirms health and alignment. It radiates energy through the vital organs of actor to character, character to audience, technician to technology, stage manager to production, production to front of house, and front of house to audience. A circle of friends, and a chain reaction of creativity. Theatre is a chain of inspired events-in-action as people come together to play and to watch ‘magicians reveal truths.’ Theatre reaches out, changing everyone within arms reach of the epicentre of the circle, with its magic. It is a living organism that pumps imagination and aliveness, like blood.
So, is the theatre a living being that, in its essence, exists only when all its organs are present and active? Is it a set of circumstances that collide and are witnessed? Theatre exists anywhere, anytime, and any place, and with anyone. Theatre is the perception of allowing life to be viewed from an open window, without judgment. It has a heart, a soul, a pulse, and a purpose. It suffers cuts, bruises, nerves and anxiety, just like humans do. It feels joy and love, and it cares about those who care about it. It worries about money and it stays up far too late. Theatre is a living, thinking rhythm. Just get on a tram, put on an iPod and choose a track to listen too, flip down the shades, and look around. That is theatre. That is why.