I had a small epiphany today. I had a moment of deep insight and understanding about theatre, and why it’s so hard to get audiences, and why it could be called a dying art form. This is what I think. Theatre doesn’t deliver on its promises often enough. What that means is that theatre isn’t totally amazing enough of the time. In fact, if I am totally honest with myself, it’s mostly miss with the occasional hit. Even in one production; often the blah moments far outweigh the mind blowing ones. Now we want people to come and pay for an experience where they sit and watch live action on stage and sometimes that’s too much to ask. Sometimes the acting isn’t good enough, or the script, or the direction. Sometimes the set is crap, or the subject matter is obscure or dull.
Now when theatre makersÂ do get it right, and the risk pays off, and the magic happens (all, or even most of the time during a performance) and the audience is transported and changed forever, a little miracle happens and we are all happier and healthier for it. When I think back on all the good shows I saw this year Jori Snell’s Inua is the one that I think about the most. For me it was the most successful in being engaging pretty much all the time. A show like that is rare to find.
Unfortunately, the others that aren’t as engaging make theatre hard to watch. Big Friendly is a great example of someone who has been burnt by bad theatre. He is much more reticent about coming with me to see stuff.
So what is the answer? What do we do? We need to make better, more engaging theatre, with better stories and greater performances. We try again, and work harder and with more magic and generosity.