Is there ever a wrong reason to attend the theatre? Can your motivations be less than pure?Or are all patrons as valid as any other? With the return of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself) to the West End stage, these questions have been raised once more. Those who consider themselves avid theatregoers look down on the hoards of young women (and in the instance of Radcliffe, it tends to be young women) who attend the show to see the face of their childhood hero.
Theatres across the country are struggling to stay afloat, with cuts to their funding and ageing buildings in need of repair – therefore a full house is welcomed by all. However, it is sometimes hard to escape the degrading looks from “proper” theatregoers. Productions containing television or film actors are considered to be pandering to the “commoners”, removing the exclusivity from theatre. Surely this is something to be proud of? Inviting people who otherwise wouldn’t be keen on Shakespeare to see Hamlet because of David Tennant or Twelfth Night because of Stephen Fry isn’t a crime. It introduces a whole new generation of people to a fantastic art form. An appreciation for the theatre doesn’t necessarily need to come from a deep understanding of the writing or direction, although often that kind of snobbery does seem to exist.
Television shows such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? existed purely as a tool to build the profile of an unknown and bring them into the role of Maria, therefore pulling in audiences that otherwise wouldn’t have attended The Sound Of Music. Does this devalue the entire production? Is it a commercial money-maker rather than an example of pure art? Many people will argue this violently, just as many people will argue that The X Factor is ruining the chances of any real talent in the music industry. So are these people right, or is there room for both hardcore artistic productions and the more widely accessible, money making shows?
I have been known to shuffle quietly in my seat as I turn the programme to the page of my idol and slyly read it in awe, determined not to be derided as a hopeless fan girl by other theatregoers. Have you ever felt judged by your fellow audience members? Or have you felt embarrassed by your motivations to be at a performance?
Photo by Flickr user Ashley R. Photography under a Creative Commons Licence.