The Joy of Theatre
July 20, 2017
With Sarah Winman’s acclaimed TIN MAN publishing one week today, here she talks about her first true love, the theatre, and the vital affinity that can be found within its walls
As both reading and writing are solitary pursuits, the need for theatre in my life increases. Such an excursion can often feel price prohibitive in London, but I tend to favour theatres like the Young Vic, the National or the Donmar where discounts are offered for the early bird.
The willing suspension of disbelief that theatre requires is unique. It is an environment of such artifice where not even the sky is real. And yet I go because theatre to me is the arena of oral storytelling, an ancient space that pulses in our DNA.
I love the shift in expectation as the audience gets seated. The febrile murmurings before a play starts, the hush as actors inhabit their light. I recently saw Brecht’s Life of Galileo at the Young Vic in which the exuberance of the performance was both scintillating and moving. There was music and puppetry and film, and a cast that fed off one another’s daring. A play so clearly of today, about faith and science existing side by side, about false truths and persecution. The audience cheered, laughed, cried, participated – the relationship between actors and audience so quickly one of trust: a beautiful intimacy lasting three hours.
I love actors. I still feel nervous when I know they’re getting their half hour call. Of course, they remind me of that young person I was thirty years ago, who left a secure and mapped-out environment to seek the romance of art and theatre. Maybe I love these performers simply because I know what it costs them.
As individuals, I believe in our need for a collective experience. Theatre is one of the spaces where we can become a community, albeit briefly; but it’s an impressive force, this joy and commentary that follows performance. And as the houselights go up and we, the audience, file out, we look one another in the eye, acknowledging that we witnessed something special, something shared. And our togetherness is palpable.