Writers and Readers 2012
Why is Theatre Not Dead Yet?
Reviewed by Bill Nelson
Playwright 1: Robert Shearman
Playwright 2: Dave Armstrong
The Devil’s Advocate: Ken Duncum
(Three men enter the stage. A small crowd of theatre lovers sit in front of them. They clap excitedly.)
(to the crowd)
Let’s kill off theatre once and for all. Let’s bury it. I’m tired of having this same conversation over and over for the last 100 years.
(the crowd laughs, certain that he is joking)
To my left I have two theatrical coroners, navy seals if you like, trained to kill. It shouldn’t take long to finish this. Then we can go to the bar and talk about something else.
(turning to Rob and Dave)
What about 3D? Surely that will finish theatre off?
Yeah, I love 3D. It’s like you’re really there.
In theatre, there is the magic of illusion. A grown man like Robert…
(DAVE puts his arm around ROBERT)
…could be an 11 year-old girl and we would believe that because we are in the world of the theatre.
(The crowd laughs, except for two people who presumably, actually thought ROBERT was an 11 year old girl)
What about the recent trend of emulating large scale special effects in theatrical settings? Surely that proves theatre is losing the battle.
Theatre can’t compete with the multi-million dollar budgets of film and television and it shouldn’t try.
In a play I am scared when an actor stands on a chair. In film I don’t blink when an actor is beaten black and blue. Special effects in theatre are far more amazing because they are done in real-time in front of a live audience. It’s magic. You can’t predict what is going to happen next, that’s what makes it exciting.
So the stakes are lower in theatre?
The stakes are higher on the emotional and internal level and not so much on the action.
Okay, I can see theatre’s not going to go down easily, but let’s fess up now. What things about theatre annoy you? Really?
If it’s bad, it’s really bad and you can’t just change the channel. There’s a commitment.
Yeah, and theatre is this annoying thing where you actually have to leave the house.
But there’s the live audience. When you leave a play you know you were part of something unique, never to be repeated in the same way.
Yeah, I remember when my first Dr Who episode aired. I thought that’s nice, but it felt over. Like I knew if I looked in the window of someone’s house I had a one in three chance they would be watching my episode. But I had no connection to that, it felt done. Where when you finish writing a play it feels like the beginning of something.
(The crowd murmurs)
Show Me the Money
And what about those costly theatre tickets, the babysitter…
The glass of wine at the interval.
…indeed, the glass of wine at the interval.
You’re paying for the experience.
What about government support, subsidies from the taxpayer. Isn’t theatre like an ailing parent in the back room yelling out for more tea and Mallowpuffs. How many times do we have to pay?
(I let out a barely contained guffaw at the word Mallowpuff. Luckily I’m not the only one.)
We all hate paying taxes. But the arts are as important as teachers or police. We fund the arts so we can fund our imaginations. Theatre is part of that.
(ROBERT rubs his beard thoughtfully. Well not really, but I’m concerned about the level of inaction at this point)
How did theatre scar you in this way? When did it all go so horribly wrong?
I used theatre to help overcome a terrible stammer I had. I started writing the plays because I was truly terrible actor and wouldn’t get cast. No, seriously. I was horrible. Eventually I began to like the plays I was writing so much I wouldn’t let myself act in them.
My parents would take me to this very theatre when I was a child.
(DAVE gestures about, indicating the very same theatre he now sits in.)
It was cheaper than a babysitter. I remember seeing a beautiful woman descending from the roof. As an 11 year old boy I was quite excited, until I realised it was a man in drag. That’s when I fell in love with theatre.
I should be psycho-analysing this. That is quite revealing Dave.
Your Q’s and Your A’s
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN SITTING BEHIND ME
You are all white, middle-aged men. Would you like to comment on that?
It’s true, I can’t deny it.
How do you know I’m not an 11 year old Samoan girl?
(Turning to the next questioner)
I’m going to avoid that question.
WOMAN DOWN THE FRONT
Ken, can you tell us what you really think?
(Cracks a so far, absent, smile)
Theatre is cool. I love it. It allows you to tell stories you can’t tell anywhere else. Theatre has been dying for a long time. Long may it die.
(The crowd erupts into applause. The lights go up)