BSC Address

Saturday, April 18, 2009


There's long been a suspicion that the proscenium arch of the standard venue is an outmoded form for modern theatre. This week I've seen two shows which were staged out of the proscenium - DANCING AT LUGHNASA and STOVEPIPE. LUGHNASA is in the Old Vic's in-the-round configuration and STOVEPIPE is a promenade piece using the basement of W12 shopping centre.

I've long subscribed to director Graeme Messer's view that the test of a good show is whether is takes you out of your seat and into the world created by the show: in essence, do you feel you left the building?

Two of my favourite theatres are in the round - the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and the St James Cavalier in Malta. So there's no doubt it can work wonderfully well. But in LUGHNASA's case, the performance space seemed cramped and exposed and unable to conjour up rural Ireland in the 1930's. Both the shows I saw this week, while apparently free of proscenium constraints, seemed stubbornly grounded by the space's inabillity to transport us away from our surroundings. In my view neither show was able to properly create its own world, partly because the world was heavily intruded upon by the audience, which kept reminding you that you were only watching a play.

Successful as they've both been, I have a feeling I'd have more chance of entering their respective worlds if they'd been properly separated from the audience. I left both shows thinking there's still a strong case for saying the pros arch is a pretty perfect way of presenting drama.


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