Watching a play - whether it's a musical or Shakespeare, or anything in between, is just one of my favourite nights out.
I grew up going to the theatre, to the extent that if you asked me to name the first play I ever saw, I probably couldn't tell you. I do remember that my first West End show was Joseph, but I'd been enjoying the theatre closer to home for a long time before that.
So what is it that makes it so special?
When you enter a theatre, it's like going into a different world. You could be anywhere, and you could have travelled back hundreds of years (assuming, that is, that everyone puts their mobile phones away...). There might be the occasional rattle of a tube train passing under the theatre, but apart from that, the outside world completely ceases to exist for two hours. There are no adverts, no trailers; when that curtain goes up you're thrown straight into the action, and for those two hours, you can sit back, relax and enjoy as the story unfolds in front of you. You can laugh, cry, even sing along if you want to (although this isn't always recommended - you need to be seeing a musical, for one thing).
In this way, it's no different than the cinema, you might think. Except that where a movie is the same every time, a play never is. The actors respond to the audience and each other slightly differently at each performance. It means you become part of the show, even if it's not one that ostensibly involves audience participation, because the way you react gives the actors something to feed on and respond to. They might ad lib a little bit, or lose it completely (it doesn't happen often, but it's always good fun when it does). If you happen to see an understudy, or there's a change of cast, it can change the production entirely. And you may well see the show quite differently depending where you sit in the auditorium - The Lion King, for instance, is a completely new experience if you sit in the stalls rather than in the circle. Anyone who's seen it will understand why. Anyone who hasn't, what are you waiting for?!
On top of that, you have the added excitement of seeing how, in a limited space, a theatre production brings to life the most impossible things. Having something like the famous Miss Saigon helicopter scene would be no problem for a film director, but on stage it's a whole other matter. And I'm still not sure how they managed to pull off some of the effects in Ghost, and I saw that a good two or three years ago.
I feel compelled to say now that I do enjoy the cinema, and I don't believe you have to choose one or the other. But despite it being considerably pricier and the fact that I have a cinema literally minutes from my door, I've probably been to the theatre more in the past few years than I've been to the movies. I guess I just enjoy my action live.
Why do you love the theatre? Tweet us @theatre_direct with your favorite show and why!
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