Unlike a recent commenter on this blog, I still believe in the necessity for the purpose-built structure for theatre, the stage; I even believe in the ability of the single-set, small-cast play to provide a powerful theatrical experience. I don’t even rule out realism as a vehicle for this experience. To close the week, a few thoughts from British dramatist John Whiting, which have some applicability to the themes of the past few days. These can be found in a collection of Whiting’s writings on theatre, At Ease in a Bright Red Tie (Oberon Books, 1999), in some selections from Whiting’s notebook of 1960:
There is a lot of talk nowadays about new stages; the things on which plays are performed. And every time, whether the platform concerned is set in an arena, or is a forestage, a space stage (whatever that may be), or a guess at an Elizabethan stage, a word always crops up. The word is “intimacy.” This, I take it, means a close emotional and intellectual contact between actor and spectator. It is always thought to be a good thing. Is it?
I suppose it is part of the times. We huddle together in life, and seem to think that we shall understand better if we lie in each other’s laps. So it is natural to believe that an actor will communicate more if we can stretch out and touch him.
But, my God, there is power in the remote, isolated figure neither giving nor asking for understanding or love. Isn’t it, perhaps, the power of the theatre, to which a return must be made sooner or later? I may be wrong. We shall have to wait and see.
The purpose of art is to raise doubt: the purpose of entertainment is to reassure.
The play can be a remarkably pure form. I find it strange that so many playwrights now introduce song and dance. Or is it the directors? Historical precedence is often invoked. Am I the only person who reaches for his hat when the actors begin to chant and hop?
Fallacy: that any art is infinitely communicable to an unlimited number of people.