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Member Since 25 Oct 2008
Offline Last Active Mar 27 2014 08:37 AM

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'the Future Of Theatre'

01 February 2014 - 05:44 PM

I’ve been thinking about ‘the future of theatre’ since last week’s visit to The Drowned Man.  I was led to believe that this would be a thought-provoking and provocative experience – but not in the way it turned out to be.

I enjoyed Drowned Man, for what it was.  As a ‘happening’, as a piece of performance art, it was quite something.  Its design, its atmosphere and its style were of the highest ambition.  But as theatre?  I’m far from sure.  Its lack of script or, indeed, narrative and the fact that the acting and dance were no better delivered and no more original than any piece of physical theatre, contemporary dance or Glastonbury Festival sideshow that we’ve seen since the sixties, left me wondering what the fuss was all about.

‘Immersive Theatre’ has been, for the last 10-15 years, the ‘new cool’ of theatre. But does this effortful hipness equate to the future?  The future of theatre?  BAC, the spiritual home of Punchdrunk, has ‘inventing the future of theatre’ as a strapline – a claim that I’ve always found problematic.  Happenings and Performance Art will be rediscovered in slightly re-booted forms by each generation – my Shunt was early DV8, early Frantic Assembly and I grew out of it with De La Guarda – my Mum’s was Oh Calcutta and drinking the Kool Aid at the Roundhouse – and each generation thinks their discovery is the newest, the best and the be-all-and-end-all.  But is today’s Immersive Theatre The Future of Theatre?

What’s ‘the future of theatre’ for you? For me – we should be talking about writers and pieces of work that made us sit up and take notice thanks to the spiritual, intellectual and artistic depth of their ambition – delivered, in all possible quarters, to the highest possible standards.  Not only spectacle, atmosphere and a large dollop of hype - but gut-wrenched creativity that says that the artist has something to say and this is the only way in which it can be said. Work that inspires hyperbole such as ‘genre defining’ and ‘touched by genius’.  Work that you know, in an instant, is going to not only be revived in its own right but will also permeate everything that follows.  Work that will speak to everyone in that instant and not just the twitterati of the day.

Punchdrunk’s schtick will stick around and will be rebranded and reinvented by a new tranche of early adopters and they’ll love it and celebrate it as the newest, the best and the future.  And then they’ll move unto something else entirely.  In the meantime, the future of theatre will continue to be shaped by artists who’s voices have depth, soul and real originality.

You may or may not agree.  But who or what’s ‘the future of theatre’ for you?