Introduction to Drama
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery” asserts an old chestnut. Drama or re-enactments have been central to the most primitive societies as a form of entertainment and a method of passing on traditions through story telling. It has always attempted to provide a mirror to real life. Modern Drama has its origins in 5th Century Greek Drama and the influence of Plato and Aristotle continue to this day. Perhaps the pinnacle of dramatic performance was the Elizabethan/Jacobean period in England during the 15 and 16th centuries.
Conflict of some sort, momentous or otherwise, seems essential in drama, not just programmatic staged debates between points of view, disguised as characters, real live organic conflict arising out of – Life - one damn thing after another and normal situations can suddenly go haywire at any moment -- that's good drama. Without conflict or at least cross-purposes, there can be no tension, no power to attract.
Human communication is largely non verbal. The determining interpretive factors in live productions are spectacle: visual, spatial, aural.
Drama scripts known as the text is merely the blue print or skeleton of a work of drama and what gives it body, shape or flesh and blood is performance. Performance, either on stage or in film, relies on sub-text to convey meaning, often sub-consciously. Linguists agree that communication is largely non-verbal (55% body language, 38% tonal and only 7% verbal.
The text is merely the blue print or skeleton of a work of drama and what gives it body, shape or flesh and blood is the performance. Especially in drama or film, body language through stance, position, deportment, facial expression, posture and thousands of subtle features convey meaning. Then there are the other factors, such as staging, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes that influence how a play derives meaning. The moving camera adds camera angles, exposure, focussing to the formula. These are factors that must valued and the director’s role is critical in determining how a play is presented and received by a live pulsating audience.
Sensual awareness is crucial so composers try to recapture scenes and objects through the appeal of the five senses: visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, gustatory. (Sight, feeling, smell, sound, taste)
Performance communicates instantaneously – “a picture is worth a 1000 words” so language is secondary and often difficult to follow. It is through performance - action, interaction and spectacle that we experience and glean meaning often sub-consciously.
This is how Neil Armfield introduced his 2007 Season at Belvoir
If theatre is a metaphor of life (and what is it but that), it suggests that there is some way out of the mess we seem to have all found ourselves in. ………You do it by listening and teaching, by raising the standards of education, by advancing informed debate by encouraging the telling of our stories in books, on our screens ‘and on our stages. And that’s what we (Dramatists) are trying, in our own way, to do. That’s our job: to tell the stories, to sing the songs of our land, our world, our past.
Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith observes “plays about nothing, have always been the cornerstones of political insight”.
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