In a recent conversation with some friends about the best place to go on a first date, the idea of the theatre was brought up, and responded with by swoons, giggles and sighs… and the girls seemed quite excited by the idea too. But when I questioned the group about the last times they had visited the theatre, the hesitation in their answers let me know the reality – that for many young people who do not have an active link with drama or the arts, the theatre is a somewhat mysterious place, reserved for the rare family outing or occasional school trip.
I decided to probe further. I put on my smarmy interviewer’s voice and questioned their real opinions on theatre. And when my smarmy interviewer’s voice left them confused and wondering if I was all there, I put it ‘simply’: “What are your thoughts: on le théâtre, THE8R, or its pet name by probably none of you, Mr T.”
“Theatre is for people who are too ignorant to read novels and like flashy lights and music.”
– Levi, 19.
And who doesn’t love a bit of controversy to kick off the debate. It wasn’t long before the book vs. stage argument arose, resulting in two clashing viewpoints – that it is more enriching an experience to immerse yourself within a narrative through reading, where your own imagination is the driving force of your enjoyment – or that more empowering is to become lost in the darkness of the theatre, where:
“It is the place where as a performer or an audience member, one can escape the troubles of everyday life and either take on the role of someone else whose life may be better than yours (and therefore you forget your own troubles) or worse than yours (and therefore your life seems a little better by comparison).”
– Adam, 19
Okay, okay, so Adam is a drama student; Levi is an English student. I stood in between as the student of both, blowing my whistle and holding them back from one another as they prepared to fight to the death. (I lie. It was a lot more boring and civilised than that.)
“The only reason people go to musicals is to see celebrities like Nick Jonas in Les Miserables’
– Lila Rose, 20
Our suspicions as to how she knew this when the rest of us were unaware was met with a cough from Lila, and a muttering about how she’d left the oven on and had to go. Yet an interesting topic of discussion nonetheless – the unwillingness of many to admit or even accept a love for musicals exists because nobody wants to seem like they are placing too much value on that which is typically seen as less impressive than (and I must agree here) a powerful play or novel.
It seems that despite the efforts of schemes such as Entry Pass, Mousetrap Theatre and A Night Less Ordinary (“winding down – not cancelled”, 2010), the idea that the theatre is “too expensive” (be it an excuse) is nevertheless a popular one amongst young people. Though I asserted that so were theme parks, student nights out after they have just received their payslip, and often (though not in comparison) cinemas, the reason that these were more frequently visited is because of the lack of a need to intellectually involve yourself with the activity (with the exception of Inception.)
For young people, a lot of the time, theatre is saved for nights when they want to pay attention, and give the artistic piece the energy it deserves. The reason that many of them don’t visit as often as they could isn’t usually because they have no interest in what it offers – on the contrary, for many it is because the excitement of delving into a plot and experiencing the trials and tribulations of characters in a more direct medium than film, is something that is saved for special occasions. A first date, for example.