Thursday, 1 May 2008

a little seasoning

There are blogs out there discussing a vision of theatre that is sustainable, decentralised and local (eg: here and here). But what about theatre that demonstrates another key environmental goal: seasonality? Most theatres' idea of seasonality is the Christmas panto.

Something has been lost when you know that you could see the same play done in pretty much exactly the same way at any time of the year. I'm not suggesting a theatre's season should start with Spring Awakening move onto Suddenly Last Summer and end with The Lion in Winter. I'm suggesting, as a very first step, that companies do more plays outdoors.

Not all plays, of course. There are formal qualities that make a play more of an 'outdoor' play than an 'indoor' one. It might be 'public' in its nature, it might not require a 'fourth wall', its dialogue might be essentially 'top-text', which would lend itself to a broader or rougher performance than a play that depended on the subtleties of 'sub-text'. Going to an indoor play, or 'winter play', then, would be a sharply contrasting experience to going to an outdoor or 'summer play'.

An outdoor promenade production, for instance, is not only likely to be quite different in content to a 'black-box' studio one, it also connects the theatre company and the audience to the surroundings in which it takes place.

Radio stations programme their content very carefully to reflect the stages of the day. Theatres rarely programme to reflect the stages of the year. To take another example, the Church calendar shows how intimately connected it is with seasonal changes: farmers could measure out their workload from Michaelmas to Candlemas to Andrewmas.

This is, of course, only one symptom of a much grander narrative. As Ted Hughes wrote, 'The story of the mind exiled from Nature is the story of Western Man.' When the mechanicals were planning their performance in front of Theseus and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream, they looked in the almanac to check if the moon would be shining the night they played their play. Now there's a theatre company that's trying to maximise natural resources.

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