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The Deadly Theatre and the Taming of the Shrew

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In this essay I am going to compare 'The Deadly Theatre', a chapter from the Peter Brook's book 'The Empty Space', with one of the Shakespeare's plays 'The Taming of the Shrew'. My aim is to show how theatre and the influence of theatre have changed over time and establish audience's role during that process. Another thing I am going to mention is Shakespeare's influence on the theatre, and also the methods he used. So, the main topic of this essay is theatre. What is theatre? And what do we need to have a good theatre?

The most interesting, and also quite motivating claim from 'The Deadly Theatre' to me is the beginning sentences: 'I CAN take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.' It means that we do not need special place and incredible people to make something big. All we need is a strong will and we have to try hard. If we do, everything is possible. But, the rest of the chapter is not so positive. Actually, it has a negative view on the theatre today. We can clearly see that from these sentences: 'The condition of the Deadly Theatre at least is fairly obvious. All through the world theatre audiences are dwindling. There are occasional new movements, good new writers and so on, but as a whole, the theatre not only fails to elevate or instruct, it hardly even entertains. The theatre has often been called a whore, meaning its art is impure, but today this is true in another sense - whores take the money and then go short on the pleasure.' What I have understood from this is that the theatre does not entertain people anymore, which was its main purpose for centuries. There are some new, good ideas and talented writers and actors but it does not change the situation because today everything revolves around the money - quality of the play depends on amount of money invested in it, not on the talent of the crew and the time spent making it.

Although theatre still has its faithful audience around the world, the number of people who decide to visit the theatre for fun is decreasing because they find it risky to pay a lot of money for today's plays, which does not mean they do not have it. The Press also has a big influence these days. It can make a masterpiece from nothing, but also it can ruin a great piece of work. Peter Brook's experience confirms it totally: 'I had a closely related experience when we put on John Arden's 'Sergeant Musgrave's Dance' in Paris at the 'Athenee'. It was a true flop - almost all the Press was bad - and we were playing to virtually empty house. Convinced that the play had an audience somewhere in the town, we announced that we would give three free performances. Such was the lure of complimentary tickets that they became like wild premieres. Crowds fought to get in, the police had to draw iron grilles across the foyer, and the play itself went magnificently, as the actors, cheered by the warmth of the hose, gave their best performance, which in turn earned them an ovation. The theatre which the night before had been a draughty morgue now hummed with the chatter and buzz of success. At the end, we put up the hose lights and looked at the audience. Mostly young, they were all well dressed, rather formal, in suits and ties. Francoise Spira, directress of the theatre, came on the stage.

'Is there anyone here who could not afford the price of a ticket?'

One man put up his hand.

'And the rest of you, why did you have to wait to be let in for free?'

'It had a bad Press.'

'Do you believe the Press?'

Loud chorus of 'No!'

'Then, why ... ?'

And from all sides the same answer - the risk is too great, too many disappointments. Here we see how the vicious circle is drawn. Steadily the Deadly Theatre digs its own grave.'

The last thing that was interesting to me from the chapter, also negative one, was the fact that there are not many good plays today, maybe just few of them. All the others are new, different imitations of old plays that were very famous years ago and that guarantee a profit. They are only adjusted to the modern style and equipment. That theory was also explained by Peter Brook: 'The real antiques have all gone - only some imitations have survived, in the shape of traditional actors, who continue to play in a traditional way, drawing their inspiration not from real sources, but from imaginary ones, such as the memory of the sound an older actor once made - a sound that in turn was a memory of a predecessor's way.' The example of that can be a play written by William Shakespeare - 'The Taming of the Shrew' first published in the 1623, but a related play, shorter and simpler, with the title 'The Taming of a Shrew', had appeared in 1594. 'A Shrew' has sometimes been regarded as the source of 'The Shrew'; some scholars have believed that both plays derive independently from an earlier play, now lost; it has even been suggested that Shakespeare wrote both plays. So, we cannot say for sure what was the original of the play that today plays around the world and makes money. But, the fact is that someone managed to keep the tradition of it through centuries, whether imitating the real play or some other imaginary sources.

William Shakespeare was en English poet and playwright who had a great talent as a creator. We can see that from this extract: 'The job of shifting oneself totally from one character to another - a principle on which all of Shakespeare and all of Chekhov is built - is a super-human task at any time. It takes unique talents and perhaps ones that do not even correspond with our age.' We can



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