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They say the digital revolution will disrupt theatre as we know it. So far, I see no sign of that happening. It’s true that some artists have been incorporating new technology into their practice for years; but does that mean that all theatre will become virtual?
Yes, theatre is archaic: it demands awareness, education and vigilance. It requires a willingness to be open and receptive. As we anticipate going to see an unfamiliar work for which we’re not particularly prepared, we may feel a little resentful at the prospect of having to alter our routine or our usual form of cultural consumption. We may occasionally be bored; we may complain about an image or concept we find upsetting or challenging. We may even feel irritated, and say so, and fume angrily for a week after a particular show has struck a nerve.
But theatre is an encounter, and it can be intense. An encounter with the other, the unfamiliar; with ourselves, perhaps, or the part of ourselves that we keep hidden, and that is revealed through words and images, through bodies alive with human expression.
Most important, in the fragmented community that is our society, where personal contact is supplanted by intensive use of screens and instantaneous virtual communication, theatre brings us together, unites us, and invites us to share an experience that dispels our isolation.
That is no small thing.