What does it mean to go to the theatre?

I will open with a warm exhortation: Hole in the Wall, a Next Wave performance created by a large-ish group of artists including half of My Darling Patricia, is exquisite and closes on the 21st May. Showing at Meat Market twice an evening, it is a little piece of theatre you may still be able to catch.

After attending the performance last night, I found myself in a conversation about attending theatre events of this kind, and the sense of space, life and the world that prolonged exposure to art creates. It’s a playful state of mind, relaxed and exploratory, and very different from the usual life-world of the academic. In comparison, academia is… well, stifling and grey.

Point two: writing about the intrusions of art into geography, Nigel Thrift notes a common criticism along the lines of ‘what are you doing with all this arty stuff?’ His response:

A part of this suspicion is cultural: Euro-American societies still retain a residual suspicion of the arts as harbingers of illusion. Another part is sociological and resides in the current disciplinary division of labour. One other part is concerned with the means through which academics tend to earn their crust, which tends to downgrade many of the most important elements of performance: the tactile, the kinaesthetic, the auditory, and so on. But the creative and playful dimensions of performance seem to me to trump all these suspicions. (…)

Robert Bresson, the film director, … says ‘Hostility to art is also hostility to the new, the unforeseen.’ And perhaps [there] is a corollary: Hostility to art and the new finds expression in doctrines that set stringent limits in advance on experimentation in cultural theory and technique in cultural life.”

Point three: play. I’ve been thinking a lot about the utter lack of uncontrolled spaces in a city like Melbourne, spaces with no rules, where one is allowed to do whatever. These are the textbook play spaces, and we are textbook-lacking in them. What happens in a city with no play?

Stuart Aitken, a geographer of play, adds:

“Play… is most clearly defined as the active exploration of individual and social imaginaries, built up in the spaces of everyday life. [And play] does not fit well in the rational, instrumental logic that pervades the abstract conceived spaces of today’s world. (…) Play, at its most radical and important, is a form of resistance. Giving young people space is more than giving them room to play, it is giving them the opportunity for unchallenged and critical reflection on experiences.”