Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bring back "Curtain up"!

This post has been brewing for a while, and with a bit of a gap until our next show (Antigone at the Tron on Friday) now seems as good a time as any. What happened to the good old days when we all knew when the show started? So often nowadays there is pre-start on-stage action, and while this was a nice novelty and worked well in some spaces, it's now so overused it's become more irritating than anything else. And it doesn't help to indicate to audiences when to shut up and watch the play already!

Of course in many studio spaces or theatre-in-the-round we could never have a literal "Curtain Up" but even here it would be nice to have a clear indication of a beginning. As Rupture at the Traverse showed recently - lighting can make a great virtual curtain. Although I will make an exception for site-specific pieces where half of the fun can be working out what (and indeed who) is part of the performance.

Okay, in some community/amateur/youth productions it can be a nice way to increase stage time for those with minor roles but surely it should add something to the piece? So often it's really just characters killing time leaving the audience unsure if they should be paying attention or not.

I can honestly only think of one occasion when it genuinely added to the production and that was at the end of the interval of the RSAMD production of "The Winters Tale" at The Arches. The actor playing "Time" (about to inform the audience that some time has passed since we last saw the characters) wandered the stage looking at his pocketwatch and glaring at tardy returners while tapping the watch disapprovingly.

Worst recent example was Hamlet at the Citizens where peripheral characters wandered aimlessly around the stage prior to the house lights going suddenly and unexpectedly dark without any kind of notice while the characters launched into speeches. Far from ideal with plenty of school parties in the audience who require a little notice as to when to end their conversations.

It's also sad to lose that magical moment when the curtain rises to reveal the set. It just isn't the same to enter the theatre to find it all set up and waiting, either with or without characters. If you've got a great set, raising the curtain can provide a breathtaking moment.

So directors please ask yourselves, do you really need to have your cast and set on display before the action starts? Is it adding anything to the production or are you depriving them of part of the fun and traditions of theatregoing?

And don't forget... curtains aren't just for raising at the start of a show - they can also be pretty damn useful at the end of a performance, but don't get me started on that...

2 Heckles

Bluedog said...

I can see where you are coming from, and I agree about Rupture. Off to see Hamlet on Friday, so thanks for the warning!

But you haven't been to Peer Gynt yet at Dundee, where I will certainly be turning up at least 15 minutes early to catch the fun in the bar and outside before the show starts- and again in the interval, and probably afterwards.

I have only seen 5 star reviews for this show, and so am excited about going.

Domenic Hill has done some wonderful productions at Dundee, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on at the Traverse when he takes over from Philip Howard. I am really sorry to see him leave Dundee.

Statler said...

Thanks Bluedog - we were giving Peer Gynt a miss due to the travel involved but your enthusiasm has rubbed off on us to the extent that we just had to book tickets.