A bit later than promised, this blog article, but the thought still pervades…
As the Fringe keeps trickling along, various projects and ideas come to my attention. In most cases, these are not brilliantly publicised: be it due to lack of funds or skill or knowledge, a lot of projects just float on by, unobserved by 90% of the Brighton theatre-going population. In many cases, this is a real shame, as the Fringe does still hold some real gems; I’m not suggesting that everything is brilliant, I’ve seen some real screamers in the past week, but it’s a shame when the one or two hidden gems go unnoticed. However, in some cases, some projects want to be a little hidden, want to be a little secretive about what they do, advertising to a select audience, or maybe just expecting a select clientele. Having seen a couple of these this Fringe, I’m not going to reveal their work, just talk about the idea behind it, which I’m convinced is pretty pointless, despite sounding as cool as it does.
It does sound enticing, doesn’t it? Secret theatre: stuff you have to really search for, the little exciting nuggets of brilliants that happen as far as they can possibly get from the madding crowd… This is an approach with some interesting thought behind it: the work is select, meaning you’re only sharing your ideas with a select group, which means you can claim a certain level of individuality. Beyond that, the work has license to be little peculiar, a little strange, as you don’t have to appeal to everyone. You can be the masters of your own little theatrical idyll.
But what is the point? Yes, I can romanticise the idea, but it doesn’t mean I think it’s anything more than a tired affection. Secret theatre? The idea behind theatre is to play to an audience, to entice people to come: this comes dangerous close to just performing for yourself, which does no one but yourselves any good. Theatre needs to be open, engagable and friendly: why do so many people go and see Shakespeare, or musicals they’ve seen twice and bought the soundtrack of? Because it’s comforting, it’s interesting, and it isn’t so far up it’s own behind that it’s lost track of it’s goal.
If you want to perform your secret theatre in private, be my guest, just don’t expect me to come. I don’t necessarily want to know everything about a project I’m going to see, but I need to know where and when it is on to even generate any interest in myself to attend. Theatre should be made and performed for the audiences that come: if you want to play to a select audience, you still need to publicise, to make sure that that select group knows where to go. So, in conclusion, secrecy in theatre is a childish and over-rated phenomenon. People want to know what they’re spending their cash on: keep them informed.