The theatre is a misunderstood place. Where this reputation of it being a place for pompous, artistic intellectuals comes from, I don’t know. But what I do know is that this reputation is simply false, so false that it discourages people from going, especially young people.
Reputation vs Reality
Now, I completely understand that skeptics who may read this article, or even those who may have even just read its title, may see me as one of the people whose pomposity and literary intellectualism is exactly why they don’t associate themselves with the theatre. I am, as far as I know, not one of those people. Nor are the majority of theatre-goers those type of people either. Young or old, hardly anyone in the audience of the show you may go to see gives a damn about whether you know your Hamlet from your King Lear or your Noel Coward from your Chekov. The theatre is not so much a place for artistic thespianism but far more simply a place to go and see a show. Like any activity or hobby, you do it simply because you enjoy it and I truly believe that more young people could take it up as such if they gave it a chance.
One of the biggest reasons misconceptions surrounding the theatre exists is due to the fact that plays in schools are taught to students often in the completely wrong way. Any young person can remember sitting in their English lessons at school whilst you all read Romeo and Juliet or An Inspector Calls, sitting down, in a classroom from a book. No playwright in the history of literature has written a play for this purpose. A play is meant to be performed on stage and watched. You can’t exactly create an immersive and exciting experience simply from reading lines of dialogue from a page, that’s what novels and poetry are for. So I strongly urge people to try and not associate drama or plays with the boredom you may have felt at school because seeing them on stage is an entirely different and ultimately very entertaining experience.
It is, regrettably true, that when you sit down at the theatre and look around you, most of the clientele that surrounds you are older, middle class and white. There is no reason for this other than the fact that the theatre is misunderstood. No theatre company or production wants its audiences to lack diversity and very often schemes are put in place to combat this. Many theatres offer discounts and concessions to people in order to encourage a wider range of people to attend their shows. If you’re a student or under 25 for example, it is very likely that you may be able to get cheap tickets to top-quality shows. It just may take simply looking at their websites to find this service. So it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be exclusive and it most definitely does not just have to be for the mid and upper classes.
What I have to finally add is that I strongly urge people to trust my advice. Going to see a play is a very unique experience that can be a very refreshing thing to do in our modern world where entertainment comes in so many similar and unoriginal forms. Plays discuss and acknowledge topics in a way like no other medium can, seeing people on stage in real-time and watching their story unfold is above all else fun and entertaining to watch. I am no actor, intellectual or artist; so if I can enjoy the theatre, so can you.