As you can see from my previous posts, and reviews I visit theatres of all shapes and sizes. However there is something about intimate/small theatres that for me is very special.
Theatre is about the relationship between what’s happening on stage and the audience member. In smaller theatres this can really be intensified and make for theatre that is profoundly effective.
In the UK we have a thing called the Little Theatre Guild http://www.littletheatreguild.org.uk , which I only heard of due to being involved in a theatre which is part of it, the Miller Theatre in Caterham www.millercentretheatre.org . I’m off to another theatre that’s a member of this guild next week, The Archway Theatre in Horley http://www.archwaytheatre.co.uk to see Patrick Marber’s play Closer, which is one of the plays linked with my college module this year. It’s worth finding out if there’s a guild member theatre near you, it’s impressive what these small theatres are doing and the vast range of plays that are being put on across the country.
Members of the Little Guild are all amateur theatres (which in no way is to denigrate their work, some amateur productions I’ve seen are better than “professional” ones). I’ve performed and seen productions in two small professional London theatres, namely The Barons’s Court Theatre and Jermyn Street theatre, these seat 50 and 70 people respectively and are wonderful little venues. I saw Timon of Athens at the Baron’s Court theatre last year and the cast of 11 literally filled the stage.
Too often we get caught in the trappings of “bigger is better” while missing the fact that theatre can be equally effective in smaller and less lavish settings. When I was a street performer, playing the larger crowds was a real buzz, but so was performing for a small group of 10 – 20 people, whose faces and names I got to know.
I’m currently reading lots of plays for college, we’re encouraged to imagine these as they would be put on and I’ve been challenging myself to read and imagine them in different settings to the standard 19th Century proscenium arch theatre.
“Each show is the size of the theatre it is played in: if the space changes , the size of the show also changes.” – Augusto Boal
Earlier this year I was in an “in the round” production at the Miller Theatre, personally I prefer performing in the round, as that’s what I’m used to with my background as a street performer and magician. I also find it easier to connect with the audience when they’re all around me.
The actor standing in the centre surrounded by the audience looking into the whites of their eyes is a powerful and vulnerable place to be.