Mark Ravenhill discusses the current trend of theatre artists seeking out smaller spaces and audiences, and asks what’s wrong with the mass shared experience? Below is an excerpt from the full blog post.
In our individualistic world, it could be that every cultural form is gradually being transformed into a private experience. Music, once the public marker of religion and carnival, has now largely become something we plug into our ears to keep the world at a distance. Ghetto-blasting cars and groups of teenagers playing music from their mobile phones are seen as noise polluters. It's almost unthinkable that a family would sit down together and listen to the "wireless", as we did in huge numbers for several decades. Now, the most popular use of the radio is to fill the private space of our cars during rush hour - drivetime. The television has made a similar retreat, with individuals watching TV in their own rooms, often on a PC or laptop.
You would think that the theatre, that most public of acts, would resist this transformation into private experience. Yet, increasingly, directors, actors and writers seem to be seeking out smaller and smaller spaces for their work: this week, the Royal Court theatre in London opened a play in an upstairs meeting room, a room which seats only 30 people. The Edinburgh fringe regularly debuts a clutch of shows performed in cars, cupboards and kitchens.