Sunday, 18 January 2015

Theatre Conversations

Once again a practitioner's blog post has made my brain run away with itself and I've spent the last two hours or so frantically scribbling in my journal!

I am currently thinking about the intention of the creative self: when an artist creates a piece of work, (visual, performance, or otherwise) they obviously have an intention behind the creation, and a meaning, feeling or message they hope the audience will relate to. But how can they be sure that the original intention is successfully conveyed to an audience when audience interpretation can differ, influenced by so many different factors. People view a piece of work coloured by their own understanding and experiences so if there is a meaning to be made clear, how can this be done so without patronizing the audience? And does it really matter? As long as the viewer takes *something* from the work, does it matter what that something is?

Image Source: youtube.com

I remember seeing a piece of art in the Tate Modern one afternoon: I hated it. I had an almost visceral reaction to the work, and even now, years later I can remember both the art and my feelings vividly. Now maybe that's what the artist was trying to convey? A gut feeling of hate and anger? Maybe there was a political or sociological commentary to the canvas, but I don't remember that at all. I compared it with my feelings towards the famous art by Rothko: I am completely baffled by what I consider to be glorified Dulux colour charts. Surely an artist wants to provoke some reaction, any reaction, rather than complete disinterest?

We read books such as Alice In Wonderland, now coloured by many different interpretations of the work: theories that the author was a laudanum addict and possible paedophile, prolific film and stage versions of the story, the influences of the British Empire or modern theories on child psychology all affect our understanding of what may have been initially intended as simply a children's tale.

Having said that, I love Alice in Wonderland (hence using it as an example - it was the first thing that popped into my head since I have this beautiful picture right by my desk!

Shakespeare has been re imagined, re-interpreted and studied for hundreds of years, and each new presentation obviously takes influences from what has gone before. We study the particular meanings and nuances of each line of the Sonnets, deciphering the hidden intentions, without considering that maybe, just maybe, Shakespeare used that particular word because it contained the right amount of syllables for the meter, or just happened to rhyme with the word at the end of the previous line?

There was an interesting Twitter thread last week, beginning with a tweet from The Royal Opera House regarding the editing of Operas. One of the most interesting responses (for me) was this one, as it started me thinking about this sort of thing (the audience response being dictated by experience):

Taken from @TheRoyalOpera Twitter feed 


One of my first thoughts on an inquiry question was "How much is it the performer's responsibility to incite an audience reaction," based on my experiences as a cabaret performer and with the intention of comparing this to other performance forms. I had difficulty moving away from this as an inquiry question because I couldn't find anything else that excited me to the same level. However I have now begun to see a way of using this original line of inquiry and expanding upon it in the new context of dramaturgy and creative practice, bringing in the different elements I have been discovering and questioning over the last couple of weeks. It's exciting!

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