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Dear Aadyam

Which direction do you think the future of theatre is heading in, especially after this global pandemic? – Vidusshi Hingad, Student of Speech, Drama and Performance Art at J’s Academy

We find ourselves in completely unprecedented circumstances that are evolving at the moment. Arts and culture, however, have thrived in the most trying times and have witnessed big leaps in their evolution. The Great Depression springs to mind with the thought-filled musicals and cabarets that emerged in its wake. There is an element of that in the metamorphosis happening today. Artistes are looking for different ways to express themselves and connect with the audiences; some of that is through technology, some of it through writing and making connections with people they have never been able to before. There will be elements of this pandemic and the ensuing lockdown that will stay with theatre for a very, very long time.

The digital aspect of it is one of them and I think there will be a large portion of work that has been done digitally which would stay. People have been forced to recognise that there is another potential strand of communicating with an audience who otherwise would have never been able to make it to the venue. And that’s a really positive development.

For us, at the NCPA, being able to take arts and culture beyond our walls is going to be a vital thing going forward. The idea of doing workshops and talks on a platform that reaches more people is a brilliant step forward. Taking a leaf out of Winter Fiesta, which is exclusively online this year, we may be able to do a live component and an online component for the later editions of Summer and Winter Fiesta. You may participate in a workshop in the physical space, but you follow up your experience online and continue to communicate with other participants, creating networks. This is true for the larger theatre community too.

What this current situation has brought is necessity and as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s forcing artistes to invent different ways of making things work. Some of that is successful, some of it is not. It is only in that process of trial and error, of working to try and improve the quality of the experience and the material for the audience that the discovery would happen. Think of the online platform as another stage; you could programme things that are specific for it or you can use it to share existing programming and archived material. The answer, I think, lies somewhere in the middle. There will be an element of curation for the online space and there will also be an element of capturing what we do in a live space. I do, however, believe that in the long run, it would have a positive impact on the way things are done. What the online platform has given us in the interim period is not what we want to do but what we can do. The closer we can get what we can do to what we want to do is when creativity would flow. Art, after all, is constant evolution.

I also believe that theatre, which has been around for thousands of years, is not going anywhere. This situation will be over one day and we will be living with a different reality. But there are certain things that are going to come back — the need for the communal experience is built into our DNA. It’s part of who we are. You can feel it already in the city. People are desperate to be with other people. They want to come back to watching live performances as soon as it is safe enough. Shared experience is what our core is about and theatre, music concerts, opera, jazz all allow that to happen. It’s why people go to cinema even though they have 4K TVs at home.

I have utter faith that theatre will come back and it will be bigger than ever. A lot of connections have been made, a lot of conversations have happened and as long as they can continue to happen, it won’t be in vain.

– Bruce Guthrie

About Bruce Guthrie

Bruce is the HEAD OF THEATRE & FILM at the NATIONAL CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS in Mumbai, India. His directing credits include: SEA WALL (Add Art Festival, NCPA Mumbai); CONSTELLATIONS (NCPA, Mumbai); MAN TO MAN (Wilton’s Music Hall, UK tour & Brooklyn Academy of Music); RENT: 20th Anniversary Production (St James Theatre & UK tour); THE LAST MERMAID with Charlotte Church (Festival of voice Wales Millennium Centre); LOTTY'S WAR (UK Tour); BAKERSFIELD MIST starring Kathleen Turner & Ian McDiarmid (Duchess Theatre); AN INCIDENT AT THE BORDER by Kieran Lynn (Finborough & Trafalgar Studios); THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, OTHELLO & TWELFTH NIGHT for Singapore Repertory Theatre (Fort Canning Park, Singapore); STORIES BY HEART written by and starring multi award-winning actor John Lithgow (Lyttelton NT). He is a member of The Guildford School of Acting's Advisory Board. He was also Artistic Director of the NATIONAL YOUTH THEATRE OF WALES, directing THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE in 2015 and ROMEO & JULIET in 2016.

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