Should Theatre Make Sense?
I've recently read an article by a British Theatre Critic exploring a strand of European work arguing that theatre should be ambigous. I'm not going to mention the Critic specifically of the work they're exploring because being a little grass isn't interesting. The question, how ever, is interesting to me and my goals as a Theatre Maker.
Fundamentally for me the question "Should Theatre Make Sense?" is ridiculous because it offers the suggestion of absolutism. Of course Theatre shouldn't just be one thing. Of course it should remain the platform of expression in any way you want: it should be everything from Some Mothers Do Have Em to Palmyra and even more extreme on both sides and everything in between. Theatre should never be one thing.
The second part of the article the critic goes onto to argue that it is reductive of audiences to give clear narratives that spell out the meaning of the play. Meh. Maybe. They also suggest that plays should be about what ever the audience takes from them. Meh. Probably not. I, for one, like all that intellectuall stuff: Palmyra was incredible and I love Ballyturk and Lippy and a whole host of work like that... But what that critic has to understand is this: both them and I work in theatre and go all the time. We are not the regular audience. We are also not the mass public we need in order to embed theatre as a major part of our national cultural fabric.
The starting point for all my processes, and the tool to fix all the problems I encounter, is this question: if I brought someone from my home town who never goes to theatre would they think this is wanky? If the answer is yes it means it has no place in the piece. I want Theatre to be a place for EVERYONE to engage with the biggest ideas on our planet. To see themselves as a piece of a global society and to reflect on their relationship with that, their own society, and themselves. In order to achieve this we have to find a way to explore the most complex ideas in the most engaging ways. People aren't thick. Lets not confuse accessibility with dumbing down. People all over the UK and beyond are well read and have viewpoints and are passionate and are caring but the difference between MY theatre and the one this Critic imagines is that in mine people go because it's a night out not a puzzle to be solved. In that logic it should make sense, have a purpose, a thing is explores, and be enjoyable. There is no way in the world that I could introduce anyone to theatre that doesn't know what it means and leaves the audience to "take what they will from it" by that logic we should all just stand around on stage screaming vowel sounds naked and charge everyone £50.
Theatre should make sense and we should be able to read the argument the team are exploring in it. To deny an audience that is to deny them a dialouge with themselves.