Theatre teaches lessons, makes you aware of forgotten history and touches your emotions. It provides a career for many and a creative outlet for others; it’s an important part of our culture.
Theatre educates and encourages conversations about relevant issues in the world. The hit Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical tells the history of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The music is unique in the musical genre due to its hip-hop style, and the show has actors from a diverse range of minority backgrounds, producing a history of America which appreciates how America looks today. This representation is important in exhibiting how diversity should be embraced. As Syreeta McFadden commented on Hamilton ‘art is critical to the health of an engaged and thinking society…the best art makes you feel seen’. Furthermore, important social issues are raised in other works such as Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, which addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, The Pillowman reminds us of how people’s dark fantasies can dangerously infect reality, and Ballyturk explores the fragility of life. Theatre informs us about the world, both in the present and the past, in ways we wouldn’t had thought.
This summer I spent five weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival working for the Pleasance Theatre Company. I couldn’t wait to work there, after visiting the festival as a punter for the three years preceding. The atmosphere is electric and the range of theatre and comedy available is endless. In 2015 there were 3,314 shows across 313 venues, and this doesn’t include the Edinburgh International Festival occurring simultaneously. When you are surrounded by such talent and eccentricity, it’s very difficult to not find something that speaks to you personally. The fact that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has survived and has continued to grow since 1947, shows the importance of theatre today; there is still a demand for silly as well as thought-provoking theatre.
On a more personal level, trips to the theatre provide an escape from reality, allowing both the audience and the cast to spend a few hours absorbed in to a world which is different from our own. In these few hours, our focus is on a piece of art which encourages you to explore a variety of emotions. This is why theatre is so important: you are taken somewhere new where you can focus on a character’s life rather than your own, considering scenarios and sympathising with people who you may not have understood before. It can be a form of therapy, in the same way reading your favourite book or playing sport can be.
We should still go and see shows to learn and be entertained, because who doesn’t need an hour or two to escape from reality?
Published in the Razz Magazine (The University of Exeter’s Arts and Lifestyle Magazine) Autumn Edition 2016
(I do not own the image used in this piece)