Adapting the language of theatre?

A recent conversation brought up the idea that our language is changing/has changed and that, in order to keep up with it, our visual language needs to become more sophisticated. The language of theatre needs to adapt if it wants to survive.

Basically what was discussed was the idea that more and more people are being drawn away from an interest in the verbal language that we speak and towards a much more visual language. How many people will chose going to the cinema or watching TV over the theatre? There has to be something in this as theatre constantly struggles to find itself new audiences  – to interest those who weren’t already predisposed to want to sit quietly in a large room with other people watching yet more people pretend to be someone else entirely whilst ignoring you…

That, obviously, is not an accurate representation of all theatre at all and in fact it is the theatre that plays with spaces, audience involvement and breaking down of barriers even testing what theatre is that seems to generate the most interest from those who may not attend more traditional theatrical events.

So what is theatre now? If the poetry of the verbal language isn’t what’s going to capture the attention of the masses then what is? The poetry of the visual…

What’s funny is that the term the language of theatre has always been something referring to the visual – to the unique mix of verbal language, stage choreography, scenography and lighting. So how can we develop this already visual art form to speak the same highly visual language society speaks these days? I have an inkling it may be in the involvement of the digital – of mixed media and of the mastering of the relationship between digital image and that on stage. Video, developments in sound and other digital media has given us a new language to play with and we need to master it like Shakespeare did the written word…

All this is just a very brief summation of a discussion that sparked an interest in me and thoughts that are still forming. It’s a fascinating area to think about and I’m sure more thoughts will follow.


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