30 January 2013
The Empty Space: “The Deadly Theatre”
The word “theatre” is a word charged with connotation. When people think of the theatre, no one envisions a bare, lifeless stage. People associate the theatre with vitality, with vibrant colours, bright lights, fancy costumes, and breathtaking sets and sceneries. Excitement and mystery is shrouded in darkness as the audience awaits the anticipated moment when the heavy red curtains rise to reveal the secrets behind them and begin the show. “Theatre,” however, conveys many different meanings. According to Peter Brook, the theatre can be divided into four different forms that may lie oceans apart or may even co-exist and combine within one night or even one single moment during a performance. These different forms are: The Deadly Theatre, the Holy Theatre, the Rough Theatre and the Immediate Theatre. The deadly theatre is a form of theatre that is mostly dull, repetitive, uninteresting, unentertaining and consumed by business. Here, the main purpose of the theatre is to neither entertain nor inspire, but to follow outdated conventions or to experience economic gain. While reading “The Deadly Theatre,” certain stories and lessons struck me as inspirational and taught me valuable lessons and techniques. For instance, through Peter Brook’s stories and examples, I am now aware of the dangers of creating labels and stereotypical characters when analyzing one’s character.
It is vain to pretend that the words we apply to classical plays like ‘musical’, ‘poetic’, ‘larger than life’, ‘noble’, ‘heroic’, ‘romantic’, have any absolute meaning. They are the reflections of a critical attitude of a particular period, and to attempt to build a performance today to conform to these canons is the most certain road to a deadly theatre – deadly theatre of a respectability that makes it pass as living truth. (Brook 16)
It is close to impossible to accomplish a character with a label because times have changed – what was once seen as noble or romantic may be different and seen as old-fashioned or close-minded and lack the reality of modern times. Furthermore, not only is it uninteresting to base one’s character off a stereotype, but it takes away from the depth and sincerity of the character. This is demonstrated by Brook’s test. During a lecture, he asked a woman who had never seen or read King Lear to recite Goneril’s first speech. The woman emphasized what she thought was important and the words flowed with grace and simplicity. Afterwards, she was told that the words were those of a wicked villain and that she must read with the insincerity of a villain. She struggled to drown her instinct and replace it by what was expected of her character. This time around, she made an unconvincing Goneril even though she said the words the way she – or a villainous persona ought to. (16) This shows that adding labels or supposed characteristics to actions and words limits the actor, the script and the character all at once. When one must act in accordance with a certain definition or characteristic, he or she wages a war between the natural, truthful way of acting that displays the reality of life and the unnatural imitation of acting that is based on how one should act. This unnatural imitation is not acting, but pretending, since there is no reality to it. It is unconvincing and makes the character less complex and less captivating. The character would only have one obvious, predictable side, and anything that is too predictable in the theatre becomes dull. Thus, this idea of “how the play should be done” is the foundation of the Deadly Theatre. When acting, I will try to avoid these labels and suppositions as much as possible to make my acting credible and authentic.
As I grow as an artist of the theatre, there are many techniques that I need to learn and explore. The Empty Space: “The Deadly Theatre” helped me learn a few useful methods through its striking