Sunday, June 6, 2010

You might remember that the tagline of John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus is: ‘Voyeurism is participation.’ It’s a maxim that comes back to me whenever people deride the predicament of the seated audience, poor saps, kept in the dark (with all the metaphorical payload that implies). How remiss of theatre to ask its audience to sit so passively. – Well there’s something in that of course. Theatre often does assume a passive audience, but this has nothing to do with the configuration of the theatre auditorium, the seating, the distribution of light. All of those factors need to be considered but the passivity of an audience depends wholly on how successfully and how seductively a stage piece asks for their active engagement. At present we consistently undervalue the work that an audience does in being present and aware of its own presence, in paying attention, in reading and re-reading what it sees and hears, in helping to hold the piece in common: all of which, given the right conditions, it can do in the most conventional pros arch theatre you can imagine.

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