By Saoirse Anton
[READ the JANAURY column: “THEATRE RESOLUTIONS” here] November plays host to ‘Love Theatre Day,’ a day where we celebrate and appreciate all things theatre – the people who work in it, the stories on stage, our favourite plays, and the effect theatre has on our lives. Appropriate, so, that this new column should come to life this month on Take Your Seats. I’ll be popping up on here with a column every month to share what I find exciting in theatre at the moment, tips on interesting shows to catch around Ireland, and some thoughts and news from the world of greasepaint and limelight.
Now that the introductions are out of the way, what to write about this month? Well, I said at the start that ‘Love Theatre Day’ is a chance to celebrate the effects theatre has on our lives, so let’s write about that.
Thornton Wilder once wrote that theatre is “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being,” and he was right. Every time we sit into an auditorium, we are a part of something bigger than just ourselves – we are connected to the audience around us, to the performers on stage, to everyone who played a part in creating the play. As a collective art-form, theatre has the power to bring us together and create connections.
Recently, I was at a talk from Nabil Alaree and Ahmed Tobasi from the Palestinian Freedom Theatre at The New Theatre. They spoke of how the theatre brings people in the Jenin refugee camp together and gives them a space to create art and respond to the horrors they are facing on a daily basis, as well as spreading their stories across the world. We can look closer to home too – this week I saw Asking For It, on its opening night at the Abbey Theatre. Based on the novel by Louise O’Neill, Asking For It tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl who is assaulted at a party, and the effect that has on her life. As we watched the play, I could feel and hear the reactions of the audience around me. Everyone was reacting together – a collective gasp at some points, muttered anger at others, and muffled tears throughout. By tackling a subject that is so pertinent, Asking For It comments on our current attitudes, challenges us to change them, and opens up a space to talk about the subject.
But it isn’t just in difficult situations that theatre brings us together. Just look at the list of shows that are on takeyourseats.ie at the moment. The newly-formed WitchWork Theatre Company are bringing Charles Dickens’ classic story The Signalman to the stage of The New Theatre this December. We’ve told ghost stories to each other for millennia, and this is no different. Sitting in the auditorium watching the suspenseful tale of the signalman haunted by visions of a terrifying spectre, the audience get to escape real-life for a while and share in the story with the cast and each other. And there’s Causeway Productions’ pantomime at Belvedere Hall - what better way to connect with the people around you than by laughing with them? After all, as Victor Borge once said, laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
Through the happy and the sad, the serious and the irreverent, theatre bridges gaps between people and draws its artists and audiences together in a web of creativity and sharing. This ‘Love Theatre Day’ I’m celebrating these webs and the spaces that theatre opens up. Spaces for us to laugh, to cry, to wonder, to connect.
Will you join me?