The Power Struggle: Modernization vs Replication

Studying theatre has always been an interest of mine, but I never thought to consider theatre as more than a performance on a stage before a hopeful audience. Since reading Palgrave’s Theatre & series, I’ve been reminded to keep an open mind towards, not only what theatre is, but what it has the potential to be. The proceedings in a court room, a sacred religious ceremony, or even a lecture from a professor are examples of performances in the real world.

Since taking the Destination Theatre course I’ve been observant of events in my life that have performative aspects. Since arriving in England, I have immersed myself in London’s rich and ubiquitous theatre scene. So far, I’ve seen sensational shows like Young Frankenstein, Witness for the Prosecution, and A Winter’s Tale. By the end of our 14-day adventure we’ll have seen a whopping ten performances in different theatres, but hundreds of performances by ordinary people within the city.

A recurring complication of the performances in London is the persistent power struggle between a replicated production and one that will please the majority – the tourists. Whether these presentations are within a theatre or in the real-world there is an unceasing desire to please the high-paying consumers. With this desire comes the decision to reproduce original performances or modernize them. This decision can severely influence the audience’s reaction towards a performance.

Two productions from this trip are highlighted in my memory when it comes to modernizing an English performance. The changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and AWinter’s Tale at the Globe Theatre undertook the challenge of modernization with some success and failure.

A Winter’s Talein the Globe Theatre was a performance accompanied by high expectations following our day of extensive programming concerning the elaborate costumes and theatres within the facility. The Globe Theatre is a reproduction of the original Elizabethan playhouse that was destroyed by fire in 1613. The Globe’s desire to replicate most aspects of Shakespeare’s vision is present, but the reality of a budget often takes precedence and impedes their efforts. Employees continue to make a valiant effort to ensure visitors have an authentic experience of the Globe, but in the case the case of their production of A Winter’s Talethe authenticity was almost completely lost in their efforts to modernize a Shakespearean classic. The production used modern-day clothing and props in order to differentiate members of the cast from Bohemia and Sicilia, but I personally found that this decision restricted my comprehension of the entire show.

In contrast, the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was a huge success for all audiences looking for an authentic and modern mix of an English production. The performance started with the traditional guard routine followed by two English marching bands that presented perfected pieces. And to my surprise, one of those pieces was “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. The use of this song allowed most of the audience, especially younger spectators, to connect to an element of the long traditional ceremony. I personally felt the performance maintained a perfect balance of authenticity and modern entertainment.

I believe that maintaining the authenticity of a performance is the surest way to achieve success. In the case of the Changing of the Guards ceremony, a small modern twist captivated the attention of audience members of all ages. As for the production of A Winter’s Tale, their attempt to modernize a classic led to an overall degradation of the quality of their production.

 

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