A look into the future of Theatre

Installation
Matt

A look into the future of Theatre

Thu, 30 May 2024

Theatre experiences are changing in 2023. The more traditional approach where you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with several hundred others in aged velvet seats is being replaced by much more creative and unusual experiences that push the boundaries of what theatre really means. With all this creativity exploding, it’s an exciting time to take a look into the future of theatre.

The West End is out of date

There are lots of fantastic historical theatres in the West End but many of these are now out of date – that’s the view of those that are set on reforming how we enjoy theatre. Some of the problems being identified include the fact that the average person is four inches taller than when many of the original theatres were built. As a result, seats are cramped and uncomfortable. Many West End theatres don’t have great air conditioning, the sight lines can be awful and the views from large numbers of seats are restricted by columns. Plus, the facilities that we need to enjoy theatres, such as toilets and somewhere to buy food and drink, tend to be out of date and sometimes even in disrepair.

The pandemic changed everything

Thanks to the pandemic there was a need to rethink the future of the theatre in terms of how it accommodated patrons. Social distancing made traditional theatre designs impossible and so change was necessary. The Berliner Ensemble Auditorium, for example, stripped out all the traditional seating of this classic theatre and replaced it with two-metre spaced seats. Another solution that was devised during the time of social distancing was pop-up deckchair theatre, something that the Holbeck community theatre Slung Low tried out in a car park in Leeds. So, the pandemic forced us to start thinking differently about how to continue to accommodate people during social distancing rules. And the outcome of this has been a big shift into what the future of theatre really looks like.

What is the future of theatre?

All those involved in theatre are rethinking the wider role that theatre can have and how existing theatre infrastructure works (or doesnt). Theatre makers and set designers are incredibly creative and resourceful when it comes to making things work and the momentum of change during the pandemic has sparked lots of interesting innovation and projects. Key to this is going to be the seats that theatres have. One theatre in Dunoon in Argyll has been pioneering the future of the theatre seat, which designer John McAslan (architect of Camden’s Roundhouse) describes as “a bit like a 1930s lounge seat.” Others are rethinking how the space within a theatre could be used. For example, those top tier seats that offer the worst views being turned into a community area instead.

Theatre will continue to evolve, whether it’s around events like a global pandemic or to accommodate new trends and themes in presentation and design. Looking at the way space is used, and how people are welcomed, is going to be central to this.

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