Play It Again! The Next Generation

Space... the final frontier...

A frontier I would of known nothing about if it wasn’t for Picard and his gang in the nineties. I was born in 1989, way after Shatner’s adventures but because of this new series, I discovered Star Trek in all its glory. As I entered my twentieth year, David Tennant did exactly the same for me and opened my eyes for Shakespeare.

I am sure there have been numerous Hamlet’s, but it was David Tennant’s portrayal that grasp my mind as well as those of Doctor Who fans across the UK and the USA.

The joint adaptation by the BBC and RSC was one the highest ratings over the Christmas period and it made me read and search out more. At school I was forced to read the ‘Scottish play’ and even study Romeo and Juliet – albeit the Baz Luhrmann movie and not the script – but even at that age the reasoning behind a character and the way the actors deliver that message fascinated me. Shakespeare means something different to the adult me than the GCSE me. He is no longer a bore who wrote a sonnet about a bed, he is a lover and a social commentator whose stories, or variances of, are repeated daily on Trisha. The Doctor’s visit to the Danish court maybe the millionth time it has been performed but it did draw a future audience. I wonder, how many teenagers turned off the TV thinking ‘maybe Shakespeare can be interesting and cool’.

There are many deserving plays that need to have the dust blown off them and brought alive again but the reason for the ‘repeat’ culture in the theatre is the repeat culture of our televisions. This is clearly seen in the way stage is copying television with repeats of Fawlty Towers and Allo’ Allo’ suddenly appearing across the listings of the Radio Times and Amateur Stage. Many small amdram groups cannot draw anyone to see a hidden gem – and theatres with a following surely find that their seats sell faster for the tale of Ophelia and her sweet Hamlet.

As a director with a tiny community group I’ve found that even family refuse to see an unknown play or pantomime and with the recession being felt by local councils we’re finding that even a big name like Bugsy Malone is struggling to draw the interest it may have done just ten years ago.

Children and teenagers do need to be taught the meaning and cause but they also need to be drawn into the theatre by its magic.
Perhaps until we have weaned our children and teenagers from the goggle-box to our local theatres and then to our West End, we cannot financially afford to display these gems due to the empty ticket hall and the lack of people to understand and adore it.

My summary; every King Lear, John Procter and Pozzo has fantastic tale to tell – which should be told over and over again – because there will be the next generation to hear it and to be awoken to this magical intelligent world that we all take for granted.

 Article orginally written by Matt Streuli
 for Amateur Stage Magazine, 2010