Theatre Conventions: Theatre in Context

Theatre Conventions: Theatre in Context

Types of Theatre and Their Conventions

  • There are different types of theatre, including traditional proscenium, in-the-round, thrust, and end-stage. Understanding the way these types function is an important aspect of theatrical context.
  • Genres or styles, such as comedy, tragedy, melodrama, farce, or musical theatre, each have their own unique conventions and demands on actors. Understanding the expectations a specific genre might place on performers is key.
  • Non-naturalistic conventions are being increasingly used in contemporary theatre. They drive the plot forward and can include techniques such as symbolism, dramatic irony, and breaking the fourth wall.
  • Realistic or naturalistic plays aim to recreate “real-life” scenarios, complete with natural dialogue, lifelike characters and settings, and social situations that mirror the real world. This theatre style has its own specific set of conventions.

The Role of Conventions in Theatre Production

  • Theatre conventions refer to the accepted norms, rules, or methods that are typically used in theatre production. They are inherited from the history of theatre and help structure the audience’s understanding of the performance.
  • Stage directions are a convention used to communicate the movement and actions of performers to a crew or readership. Understanding stage directions and other drama texts is an integral component of theatre studies.
  • Improvisational theatre or improv, often operates on a set of established conventions, which might include accepting offers made by your partner, not blocking actions, etc.
  • Lighting, sound cues, costume, set and prop design, and makeup are all parts of the conventions that can help to develop and aid in the audience’s understanding of the story being told.

The Influence of Cultural and Historical Context on Theatre Conventions

  • When analysing a specific theatre production, it is crucial to understand the historical and cultural context in which it was created. This includes the socio-political factors that may have influenced its creation, such as war, gender roles, economic crises, etc.
  • Brechtian Theatre uses a range of conventions intended to prevent the audience from becoming too immersed in the story and to remind them that they’re watching a play. This includes direct address to the audience, the use of signs and projections, and the disruption of the narrative.
  • Absurdist Theatre rebels against conventional theatre norms. Its conventions include illogical dialogue, lack of narrative structure, and absurd situations.
  • Understanding how conventions have evolved - and continue to evolve - is key to understanding the way theatre reflects the world at any given point in time. This includes understanding the use of technology and multimedia in modern theatre and how this impacts conventions such as staging and set design.