Architecture, Actor, and Audience

Architecture, Actor, and Audience

Architecture, Actor, and Audience

Architecture, Actor, and Audience


Understanding the theatre space on both the practical and theoretical level is becoming increasingly important to people working in drama, in whatever capacity. Theatre architecture is one of the most vital ingredients of the theatrical experience and one of the least discussed or understood.In Architecture, Actor and Audience Mackintosh explores the contribution the design of a theatre can make to the theatrical experience, and examines the failings of many modern theatres which despite vigorous defence from the architectural establishment remain unpopular with both audiences and theatre people. A fascinating and provocative book.


Theatre architecture is more than the frame to a picture. Theatre people understand this instinctively though rarely speak out except when opening a new theatre. On these occasions the actor often inveighs against modern theatres which, lacking the character of the old, fail to support his or her art. The commercial producer may not often talk about theatre architecture but nevertheless makes shrewd judgements when carefully choosing the particular West End or Broadway theatre in which to present his or her show. The audience is generally less aware of the contribution of theatre architecture to the theatre experience. Many mistake decoration for architecture. Others put the architecture, along with the ease of getting a drink at the bar, of parking or of buying a ticket, as a necessary adjunct to the evening, not central to the event.

Those who ought to be analytic of all the elements in the theatrical experience, theatre critics, generally ignore the part played by theatre architecture. Couple this with the fact that in few countries are students of theatre and literature taught to assess the contribution of architecture to art and to society, and you will understand how unbalanced has been most people's appreciation of the role of 'place' in theatre making and theatre going.

This is hardly the case with religion. For most churchgoers the architectural atmosphere is as essential to the experience as the words with which the mystery is invoked. Only the most fervent believer of any faith can hold communion with God in an aircraft hangar or a shed. Few brides and grooms prefer the registry office to church, synagogue, temple or mosque. You may talk to God anywhere yet all but the hermit require to return to the holy place to rediscover the intensity of faith in the supportive presence of the faithful.

Or, to move from the sacred to what some call the profane, just imagine seduction without the low lights or the romantic sunset. The shift is deliberate as a sense of 'place' is not a solemn idea. Sir Anthony Quayle, one of Britain's theatrical knights, was entrapped in a campaign for yet another summer festival and defined a successful theatre as being half a

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