The Immmediacy of Theatre

Earlier this year I produced “The Importance of Being Earnest” as a co-production with my own and a neighbouring theatre group. It was great fun and a great success – every single performance sold out, as did the dress rehearsals which we opened to the public due to demand for tickets. Last night, cast & crew and production team gathered to watch the DVD of one of the performances.

Something funny happened then. The opening scene has the two would-be Earnests gabbing away at high speed – such speed, indeed, that some audience members said they could not understand properly. But when we watched this opening scene on DVD, our director remarked, “Funny how film slows things down.” And it was true – the DVD performance seemed slower than the live performance which it had recorded.

This triggered musings that I have mused over many times before. I love film, and I love theatre. I’ve written for film (a bit), and I have written for and been involved in theatre (a lot). Watching the DVD last night, laughing at all the inside jokes, giggling in anticipation of an upcoming witticism or groaning about messed-up lines (not many, it was a fantastic cast), I realized how much I enjoy the immediacy of theatre.

Theatre is so different from film. You don’t get fifteen re-takes until everything is perfect; no second chances. Well yes, there is always the next performance, but most people see a show only once. (Sarnia’s mum excepted – sorry, inside joke.) So no second chance with one and the same audience, you’d better get it right.

And that’s exactly it. Get it right – but there is usually more than one “right”. No second chance, but the chance to create something new every night, for the audience is different every night, and unlike in film you can react to this difference.

The other immediacy is, of course, that you see and feel the result of your work right there and then. For the writer, no months of waiting and wondering after you’ve delivered your screenplay – will they actually use it? How many other writers (and/or directors) will maul my story? For the actor, no months of post-production or shooting three other films until this one actually opens at the cinemas.

In a way – or perhaps in many ways – I find this much more rewarding than the thought of my name on the big screen. I’m serious. It would be fantastic to sit in the cinema and see the screenplay credits spell my name. But I have a feeling it would be less real and less palpable than the stage version.

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2 responses to “The Immmediacy of Theatre

  1. I agree with you about the immediacy of theatre Vera. There’s nothing like hearing the words you’ve written being spoken live on stage by an actor to a – hopefully – responsive audience. Found it quite hard with young cast members though who didn’t always perform really well on a long festival haul. Sometimes they’d be hung over and sometimes fed up with doing the performance when they’d rather have been partying so there were never two performances the same. The very rare occasions when everything worked perfectly, lights, sound, actors, were so wonderful though that I wished I could have filmed them for posterity. Hmm. Guess that means I still love film just a bit more than theatre. But lovely post. Good food for thought. X

  2. This is so similar to what I feel about live vs recorded music. Part of the charm of listening to a live performance is the thrill of the “danger” of it all – the adrenaline rush of wondering if that tricky bit will go right, if that quiet passage will have the audience rapt in attention. And there is also the additional dimension of the performer/s response to the audience and to the acoustic of the venue, another variable not present in studio recordings or film. Somehow even a recording of a live performance isn’t quite the same as being there either.
    Still, since cost and logistics prevent most of us from seeing all the live music or theatre that we might wish, I still appreciate that film/TV and music recordings are available to enjoy!

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