Theatre Conventions: Conventions of Theatre

Theatre Conventions: Conventions of Theatre

Basic Understanding

  • Theatre conventions refer to the traditional or established techniques, practises, and criteria related to different aspects of theatre production, from acting and scriptwriting to set design and direction.

Variations Between Theatres

  • The conventions vary with the type of theatre. For example, naturalistic theatre employs conventions such as the fourth wall and realistic settings, while physical theatre often includes mime and movement without the necessity for realistic settings.

Linking Conventions to Narrative and Characters

  • Some conventions are related to the narrative structure. They include exposition (introducing the characters, setting, and initial conflict), rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • Use of monologues and asides are also theatre conventions. A monologue involves a character speaking their thoughts aloud, usually when they are alone. An aside, on the other hand, is a remark by a character in a play that is intended to be heard by the audience but supposedly not by the other characters.

Interaction with the Audience

  • Breaking the fourth wall is another convention and this involves the performers acknowledging the presence of the audience directly, either with dialogue or eye contact.

Visual and Auditory Elements

  • Sound effects, lighting, costumes and set design are also part of theatre conventions. For example, spotlights are often used to highlight a character or action, while red lighting might be used to suggest danger or passion.

Specific Theatre Styles and Their Conventions

  • Physical Theatre often relies heavily on mime. This allows it to explore complex concepts or narratives without the need for spoken language.
  • In ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, there is often a disregard for realistic settings and logical narrative, instead favouring more abstract and symbolic forms of storytelling.
  • The Stanislavski system is a widely-practised performance system that encourages actors to draw on their personal experiences and emotions to connect with their characters.
  • Multi-rolling is a convention often used in minimalist theatre where actors play multiple roles throughout the performance.
  • The use of chorus is a convention rooted in ancient Greek theatre, where a group of performers comment on the main action and interact with lead characters, offering advice or challenging decisions.
  • Brechtian techniques, named after renowned German director Bertolt Brecht, encourage the audience to remain critical and detached observers rather than becoming emotionally involved in the narrative.
  • Other conventions include cross-cutting (switching back and forth between scenes), freeze frames (where action is frozen on stage), and split stage (where two scenes happen simultaneously on different parts of the stage).
  • Commedia Dell’arte is an Italian theatre style that relies heavily on masks and improvisation. This style has a set of stock characters and plots which are used repeatedly.

Final Note

Remember to familiarise yourself with each particular convention and how it can affect the interpretation, reception, and overall impact of a performance. Try to understand not only the how, but also the why behind each convention: why it is used and why it works.