Where do we draw the line with dark theatre?

Last night I witnessed one of the deepest and darkest plays that I have seen in a while.

Last night I witnessed one of the deepest and darkest plays that I have seen in a while. Spring Awakening followed eight children on a journey of discovery but little did they know that the discovery was full of corruption and poison and a pathway that adults let alone the children should not be following.

I do not usually go to see dark plays such as Spring Awakening as I usually end up an emotional wreck and at the end of that performance, it was no difference. But as a reviewer, it is up us to challenge ourselves in the theatre world to make sure we are gaining the full experience in theatre.

A playwright’s debate

However, I wonder where plays can draw the line between being deceptive and dark to make the audience invest in their own emotions. If a piece of theatre has not made you think or reflect about something in your life, then for me it has not done anything.

But do playwrights need to tone down that level of making someone cry in an attempt to make someone make a change based upon what they have seen? Can the theatre have the power to make an impact on the audience without making the play dark? Or do the playwrights believe that in order for us to engage with a play they need to scare us or make us cry compared to a happy play where we might not take notice?

But surely if a play is scary then that will detract audiences from seeing it in the first place and therefore it all depends on what we as an audience prefer.

Spring Awakening was according to the program, suitable for audiences above the age of 16. However, I would have increased the audience age as there were graphic scenes that even as a 19 year old, I found some scenes upsetting.

You could argue that surely it is all dependants on the audiences view and how they interpret it – not everyone who sat that play cried but many audiences did.

The aesthetic and creative view

For theatre nerds out there, there is a form of theatre that aims to make the audience aware that what audiences are viewing is only a play. Epic Theatre protests against the popular, the ‘normal’ forms of theatre, especially naturalistic.

Playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children) and Frank Wedekind who originally wrote Spring Awakening are both advocates for Epic Theatre. This leads me to wonder then is there a need to draw a line? After all it is only theatre and it is not real life.

However, often it can portray real life and show events in life that are happening in today’s society. So it is okay to emotionally invest in a performance and not okay to get upset about something that is not about real life?

A performance has the power to make audiences relive their memories and issues, memoires that they had kept closed because it was sensitive to them.

And that is often what theatre does, it challenges audiences.

What do you think? Is there a line that needs to be drawn with a theatrical performance? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Charlotte Wilson / Wikimedia Commons