Saturday, May 27, 2006

On the Nose!

Alison describes a recent performance she attended where the house was filled with young people. She writes:

The point is really that there are young urban people who routinely read, who buy zines, who take out dvds by Jim Jarmusch and other alternative film makers, who listen to interesting music and go to gigs. (At least, here there are, and I can only assume that it is the case elsewhere). Why don't they go to the theatre? Because what they are given is not as exciting and interesting as the books, films or music they immerse themselves in, all of which take feeling seriously. Young people are feeling people (this is why young people go nuts about my books - because they are honest about emotion, don't cheapen it). When feeling is taken seriously on stage, intellectually and aesthetically - I'm thinking now of Black Medea, a breathtaking adaptation of Medea done here last year as another example, or of contemporary cabaret, which is black, funny, moves from poignancy to irony and back again - those young people will sit there, riveted. They don't care if they don't quite understand it. They don't subscribe to seasons, they are sceptical about advertising, they have grown up in a world saturated with media and are alive to all its spin, and they listen to word of mouth. What they don't like is being patronised or bored. That's the audience theatre has to go for if it wants to survive.


Absolutely! That's the audience I want to appeal to. That's the future of the theatre, if the theatre is going to have a future. Alison prescribes authentic feeling onstage, and if I'm not mistaken (and correct me if I'm wrong, Alison, please) the piece was very movement oriented. What else might make theatre appeal to a younger audience?
---------------------------
Alison replies:

I'm yet to review Kage, but will early next week. Yes, phsyical theatre, which is to say close to dance. But I also mentioned Black Medea, a play, which knocked the socks off some young people who went - contemporary theatre, with one of the most beautiful set and lighting designs I've ever seen, a text (yes, tragedy) based on the Greek but adapted to a contemporary indigenous fable, and lots of BIG acting. My test audience - I don't only take my kids, but their friends too - also adore full-on cabaret. I've noticed that they particularly like work thought of as avant garde, even if that's not quite the right word for it. One thing I took Zoe to and that she still remembers was a wonderful monologue based on the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Berkoff's East was a big winner too.

All this theatre looked amazing,in different ways - it's not just about spectacle - sounded great, and was intelligent. It didn't "explain". (Film and tv means they're used to elisions). And they were all intense, demanding experiences, going beyond "entertainment". And often quite bleak. They react negatively to conservative theatre (even when I quite like it). They find it boring. But I think what they respond to is work which acknowledges their own feelings of confusion, despair, comedy etc about the world they find themselves in, ie this world. It doesn't have to be literal. Often better if it is not.


As a teacher, this rising generation fascinates me. They combine, as Alison says, "feelings of confusion, despair, comedy etc about the world they find themselves in," and yet at the same time they are quite determined to have a positive effect on someaspect of it. It is almost a sense of Negative Capability -- the ability to hold opposing views without reaching for certainty. There are so many possibilites for theatre in this.

1 comment:

Alison Croggon said...

I'm yet to review Kage, but will early next week. Yes, phsyical theatre, which is to say close to dance. But I also mentioned Black Medea, a play, which knocked the socks off some young people who went - contemporary theatre, with one of the most beautiful set and lighting designs I've ever seen, a text (yes, tragedy) based on the Greek but adapted to a contemporary indigenous fable, and lots of BIG acting. My test audience - I don't only take my kids, but their friends too - also adore full-on cabaret. I've noticed that they particularly like work thought of as avant garde, even if that's not quite the right word for it. One thing I took Zoe to and that she still remembers was a wonderful monologue based on the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Berkoff's East was a big winner too.

All this theatre looked amazing,in different ways - it's not just about spectacle - sounded great, and was intelligent. It didn't "explain". (Film and tv means they're used to elisions). And they were all intense, demanding experiences, going beyond "entertainment". And often quite bleak. They react negatively to conservative theatre (even when I quite like it). They find it boring. But I think what they respond to is work which acknowledges their own feelings of confusion, despair, comedy etc about the world they find themselves in, ie this world. It doesn't have to be literal. Often better if it is not.