There is something about watching a live performance in a theatre full of people that thrills me. I don’t mean the story, nor do I mean the actors’ performances either. It is more of a feeling: something in the atmosphere, which I seem to become part of from the moment I reach my seat. I remember having a look around before a performance started, and then again as it finished.
I would look at the people sat next to me and discreetly listen to their conversations, I would check some people’s fancy dresses and some others’ comfortable clothes, as I had a look at the different people in the audience, sometimes wondering if they were on a date, were friends of someone in the production team, or maybe were drama students like me.
At the end —my favourite moment— I would look at the audience again and watch them turn into a moved and vivid wave of applause in unison. In this way I used to feel connected to them somehow, as if sharing the same space and listening to the same story would involve us in the same conversation. That is not that different to ‘meeting’ someone, if you think about it…Well, more or less. I guess what I mean is there is some proximity to strangers when being part of the same audience, some sense of…community. And that is what is special about theatre.
What happens now? I wonder. Not with theatre as such – much has been said about it already– but with us as a community. What does the fact that we are confined in our houses (limited to online meetings and performances) say about ourselves and the lifestyle we have created? A lifestyle based on distance, isolation, fear of strangers and of socialising. I ask myself –and therefore I ask you– if this pandemic and the different lockdowns we have been through may be the reflection of a society which forgot to value the little and ordinary things that unite us, because we preferred to hide behind screens and virtual profiles rather than looking at someone in the eye…
I must admit it: I forgot to appreciate them myself. So many times. I took for granted that I could always meet my loved ones freely, as I took for granted that I could always go to the theatre and stare at my fellow audience members, believing we were doing something together. We lost that. I lost it, and I cannot help thinking it is a consequence of what I prioritised in the past. Of what we did.
So I hope through this festival we get closer to the community we could be. I hope we all enjoy ourselves ‘together’ as we grow watching, listening and discussing…although, I especially hope we miss doing this in person as we keep in mind that theatre is about people coming together, even if we are doing it differently right now.