12 Miles West

All about Theatres

From the blog

The beginnings of the Theatre

The theatre over the centuries has used live performers to act out scenes in front of real audiences. The performers have done this by song, gesture, dance and song to relate the story to those watching. The experience of going to the theatre is a celebration of the arts. People are brought to life by the make-up that they wear and the costumes that are designed for them the performance is also completed by art being used to create scenery in order to set the scene of the performance.

The Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece

The enjoyment for the audiences has been added to in recent times as technological developments have results in using sound and lighting to make the experience even more authentic. Today’s theatre sees performance divided between three broad performances. Dance productions are seen as ballet, song performances are seen as opera and acting performances are seen as plays. However, these classifications are far too broad. One of the most popular shows are the musicals. These performances combine both acting and song. Likewise there are many dance shows that could not be described as ballet, or song performances that are not operatic.

Theatre first emerged in Athens, Greece in around 350BC, with the actors being either amateur, or even semi-professional. The shows were performed in semi-circle shaped auditoriums that were cut into the hill side, and were capable of seating up to 20,000 people. The performances consisted of acting and dance that were combined to produce Greek tragedies some of which are still performed today. The auditorium consisted of the stage, a changing room plus an area set aside for scene building. The acoustics of the structures were excellent as the audiences needed to hear the voices in order tom follow the plot.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

The Romans then developed the Theatre from 4BC onwards. Performances were given that were more diverse. This included tragedy, comedy, nude dancing and acrobatics and the regular performances became a regular part of Roman life. The first theatre built in the United Kingdom was the Red Lion in Whitechapel in 1567. It was built from farm buildings by the owner, John Williams, who wanted to provide a home for the many touring theatrical companies that would travel the country. This was followed by The Theatre constructed in 1576 by James Burbage, in Shoreditch. It was built in area that was surrounded by ale houses and brothels but financially it was quite a success. It was the first time that a theatre had made any money, but problems with the landlord in 1596 caused the theatre to close.

In 1599 timber from The Theatre was used in the construction of the Globe Theatre which was close by near Bridewell on the waterfront. The building could hold up to 3000 spectators and had a rectangular stage platform. The owners included Shakespeare and this was apt as it was during this period that the creation of literature was gathering pace. The creation of new plays meant that more venues were needed to host the performances and this was helped in 1660 when Charles II came to the throne. He encouraged theatre and soon other venues were being created around London.

New theatres such as the Theatre Royal, built in 1663 in Drury Lane,  gave the actors an area where to change, plus had organized seating, that would give the King the best seat in the house. This new momentum of theatre buildings was only helped by the industrial revolution. The revolution meant the growth of the capital city which meant that more people were earning more money. This resulted in people wanting to be entertained in their free time. They had the ability to pay for tickets and with their being more plays being written there was an over expanding market for the new theatres to take advantage of. A similar pattern was occurring in different cities around the world. Every major city now has an area where its theatres are located, and the character of these venues reflects the culture of the country.