Over the events of the last few days, I have once again questioned the purpose of theatre. When people are dying on our streets, in our cities, it seems increasingly contrived to get antsy about whether this show will go up or whether we’ll get any audience, or can we afford this piece of set. What reason does anyone do this apart from the fact that they’reÂ fairly useless at basic office tasks?
Avenue Q says that purposeÂ “keeps you going strong, like a car with a full tank of gas.” The Little Mermaid yearnsÂ to be somewhere else, somewhere better, “part of that world.” Hamilton wants you to :”know his name” and Jean Valjean converselyÂ wants to escape his.
Increasingly I’m yearning for musicals that let me escape like Jean. Motown for example, which I saw recently, is full of classic Motown hits. Upbeat, funky and classy. Perfect escapism. I sat there enthralled, and bouncing in my seat. Not bad for a guy who frequently leaves musicalsÂ disappointed.
Does Theatre Change Things?
Alan Rickman believed that theatre could change the world. I’m not sure that I have his level of faith, but I do believe this:
Theatre’s place is to share. With other human beings. Whether that’s happiness, or sadness, guilt or pain or grief or hope. And it is also to help people escape. From the day to day grimyness of it all. To somewhere better, to somewhere worse, to somewhere else entirely, a different time or place.
These are two utterly opposite ends of the spectrum, but theatre exists in the pendulum between these two. And if every there was a time for us to share in our humanity, and escape from our reality for a little bit, even if we have to confront it eventually, itÂ looks like now.