When I go to the theatre I want to be moved in one way or another. I either want to laugh or cry, be shocked or angered – sometimes all of the above at the same time. What I definitely don’t want is to come out after the final curtain and not feel any different than how I did before.
That’s the beauty of theatre as an art form; It informs us and inspires us and makes us look at the world in a different way than before.
However not all theatre does this. That doesn’t make it bad theatre, it just doesn’t make it great theatre!
But what does make a great piece of theatre? I don’t believe there is a steadfast answer. It’s when the writing, direction and acting just flow together in perfect synergy. Or when the subject matter of a piece really touches a nerve in society. When a cast truly inhabit the characters and tell the story. Or when a piece simply speaks to its audience without pretence of being anything other than what it is.
Sadly I don’t feel we produce an abundance of great theatre these days. We definitely have a lot of good theatre and occasionally we do still have great theatre but, in my opinion, the obsession with celebrity in this country detracts from the opportunity of producing something magnificent. Producers first thoughts are not “who would be best for the role”, but ” who will put the most bums on seats”, often to the detriment of the piece.
There is also a strange over appreciation of the celebrities in these roles, even if they are not particularly good. A perfect example for me was James Macavoy in Macbeth. Now here is an actor who I have great respect for – he is a fantastic actor and has produced some stunningly beautiful moments of cinema – but was extremely mediocre in the Scottish Play. His use of verse was painful to listen to and played the end of the play from the moment he walked on leaving me feeling cold and uninterested. However he received rave reviews for his performance from critics and audiences alike.
Now for me this production could have been fantastic if it had a more suitable actor in the title role. It was a clever post apocalyptic take on the play which was intriguing to watch, but fell short of the mark due to poor casting.
Some of the best theatre I get to see is Off West End where the plays are cast with the right people in mind and are not produced solely for profit. That said you will of course occasionally come across a gem in commercial theatre which simply blows your mind. The National Theatre is great for this. They have the desire to produce a wide variety of theatre and the resources to really take risks with what they do.
I will never grow tired of going to the theatre, as long as people keep putting on exciting and challenging work. Even when they don’t and you have to sit through a couple of hours of drudge, it’s still a great thing to have witnessed, especially as you can go back to your friends and laugh about just how bad some theatre is.