The lights are on in Hull
October 18, 2012
The lighting was curious thing for the people of Hull. The lighting of the show that is. The lighting of the people themselves. You see, in this show the audience is lit - and this, for reasons unknown, became a site of discussion, and discomfort for the audiences we encountered this week. Some liked it, others found it distracting, but all agreed it was something - something curious. They wanted to know why.
And there was explanation. The actors relayed how Tim wanted the experience to be all encompassing, all inclusive. The show extols that we are all seeing and doing at the same time - that there is no illusion, it's not real, but theatre. Therefore we don't fade out the audience, or pretend they're not there - we want to see their faces and see how they share, understand King Lear. It's bold, it's unforgiving, and it's challenging for the actor and the audience.
This week, when I was in watching the show, bathed in the fluorescent tubed lighting of a school hall, and then the house lights of a theatre I found that I interacted with those I sat beside more than I might if I was in the dark.
In St Mary's College there was a young lady sitting beside me whose phone rang during the show, and then she proceeded to answer it. The audacity, was my thought, and my disdainful murmurs and tutting soon ended the phone call.
But I wondered would this have happened if the lights were fully down and we were all totally silent. Is this the liberty afforded when there is no major marker of the lights fading and the show going up?
In the Q & A that night a lady commented that at the start she couldn't quite understand why the lights didn't go off, but about 10 minutes into the play she completely forgot about it and enjoyed the show. Then when we were in Hull Truck a man said that he found it very distracting that the audience were in focus and lit throughout the play and he begged the question of its value to the experience of the show.
Dharmesh reminded him that in fact this was much more akin to how Shakespeare would have originally been received at the Globe, and that there was a choice that the audience had to make - do I look and listen to the play or do I take in the theatrical event. While one is probably more preferable, I think that the fact that we are drawing attention to the making of a live event with the public is a satisfying thing.
And then there is the challenge for the actors - seeing the reactions (and the spectrum of elation to boredom) - and contending with keeping them from answering their phones!
by Caroline Byrne
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