Tuesday 6 May 2008

singular events

Last Thursday's post about theatre and the natural world was kindly linked to by Theatre Ideas and ecoTheater.

But on Saturday a book I'd ordered arrives which includes a section that expresses superbly what my post had been trying to say. The actor and academic Rush Rehm describes how for the last 500 years:

'the word "theatre" generally has meant a walled building that allows artists to exercise heightened aesthetic control by cutting out the natural world around them.'

He contrasts these conventions of theatrical realism with Greek theatre in the 5th century BC, which he describes as having a completely different theatrical 'aesthetic'. It was:

'aggressively public, part of the ongoing life of the city, subject to the forces of nature (the major dramatic festival took place in early spring, the lesser ones in winter), played against a backdrop of the polis, acted out on a beaten earth orchestra, with the land, sea, and sky beyond.

Roland Barthes observes that, in such performances, "the spectator's immersion in the complex polyphony of the open air (shifting sun, rising wind, flying birds, noises of the city) restores to the drama the singularity of the event."'

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