In medias res: realism is why drama needs video today. Drama’s very raison d’eÌ‚tre rests on the idea that a realistic imitation of human life presents its viewers with a critical mirror. This is true whether it’s about the individual or the collective, whether it’s about crisis or success. The theatre is a laboratory, designed for our self-examination. For this examination to yield results, we need to identify with what happens on stage.
So the challenge for playwrights is to find ways in which today’s world can be put on stage. So far so good. But the challenge of every director dealing with plays written in a former time is to make the work relevant. In one way, this is easy, because the great thing about theatre is its continuity through transcendence. In another way, it is extremely difficult, because the transcendent themes that are relevant to all ages need to be isolated from the play first. This is an incredibly difficult task and accordingly no method – video among them – should be forbidden. Because of the difficulty of realising this relevance, I believe that video will in fact
be an inevitable part of the theatre’s future. Allow yourself to cringe at this analogy. We have smartphones, but if someone gave us a good old Nokia brick we might be tempted to switch back to its vintage charms. We would use it just the same, to write messages, make phone calls, set our alarms and doodle around with it while in the lunch queue. Overlooking the loss of internet access everywhere (try for a second), we might even adopt it as a retro trend. But, let’s face it, we would all eventually return to the temptations of the modern world.
So if the old is so cherished and we so naturally lean towards nostalgia, why do we persist in pursuing the new? It is the same reason why Apple is so keen it reinvent the mobile phone over and over and over again. We just get bored easily. The vicious (or not so vicious?) cycle of boredom and reinvention naturally casts its shadow over the arts most of all. Just consider the recipe for any action movie sequel: higher death count, greater dangers and a deeper level at which the roots of evil are unravelled.
Going back to theatre, what does this mean? It means that we have to admit something to ourselves: we don’t care what happens on the stage, unless it feels like our world. That world is digital and fast; it creates entertainment, which stimulates us, with a frequency and extremity that is unparalleled in our history. Overexposure to these diversions means our sensitivity to them is being gradually eroded; theatre must therefore respond in kind. It would be a pointless nostalgia to deny drama the use of video – it is as ridiculous as using a Nokia brick to take a selfie. Video is integral to navigating this hyper stimulated world of entertainment. Indeed it is pointless to hark back to an era when theatre was unpolluted, for this ultimately prevents theatre from serving its real purpose.