The Power of Theatre

The power of theatre is a unique one, quite unlike any other art form. I am currently working on an assignment in which I am trying to pin down precicely what it offers to Shakespeare that studying it through the published text, watching a film or accessing it through other media cannot succeed in replicating.

In his book ‘The Playwright’s Guide’, Stuart Spencer opens with a discussion of what he believes the key elements are and discussing, among other things, the differences between theatre, film and prose from the perspective of the most effective way to ‘tell stories’. Spencer depicts theatre like a bridge between prose and film, like this:

FILM – – – – – THEATRE – – – – – PROSE

Immediate <Both> Contemplative

Visceral                    Analytical

The ‘spectacle’ created by the combination of these elements through theatre, Spencer believes no other form creates. Theatre is live, it is unique in that respect, so no other form can compare in immediacy which he believes is its key power. He notes here that filmed stage productions are not the same for this reason. In ‘real’ theatre, no two productions can ever be entirely the same. Immediacy is what theatre “does best”, the impact of witnessing a reflection of humanity (as all theatre essentially is) first hand. The power of seeing raw emotion, of feeling that energy pour off the stage. The sense of wonderment, at what you are witnessing, what you are unconsciously learning; you are being changed through events experienced vicariously through their words and actions, shaped by our own imaginations, our own thoughts and beliefs. I am certainly in agreement in these respects.

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