Whether it’s for a big-scale production or a local show, going to the theatre is always a special occasion. Theatre was first born in the Middle Ages as a form of cheap entertainment for the masses, and plays often focused on re-telling old folk stories and tales such as St George and the Dragon and Robin Hood. Over time, it has grown and developed immensely into the phenomenon it is today. But how exactly have theatre shows changed, and why is the theatre an important experience to have? Let’s dive right in and explore.
There are many shows that have stood the test of time and remained popular and well-loved among the people of Britain. One of the most prominent of these is Les Misérables, which opened way back in 1985 and 13,124 performances later, is still one of the best-loved West End shows around. It has remained largely unchanged for the most part, aside from some changes being made for the 25th anniversary shows which included the removal of some elements such as the original barricades and the rotating stage. Despite there being numerous cast changes over the years, the characters have largely remained the same as they are well loved and their essence is so important to the story.
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The Phantom of the Opera has been running in the UK for over 28 years, and has seen more prominent changes over this time. These include technical revisions such as a turning spiral staircase which emphasises the depth of the theatre and to allow the actors to seamlessly move around the stage without the need for doubles, as well as grittier, darker changes to accentuate the characters. This includes the change made to the Phantom, changing him from the romantic character in the Hal Prince version, to a dangerous and lethal character in the newer versions.
Changes like these always pose a risk as to whether the audience will enjoy the play afterwards. However, one of the many beauties of theatre is that it is always evolving and adapting, which helps to enrich the experience more. So, why is the theatre still an important experience to have? Well, put simply, it makes us happy. There are many reasons why experiences make us happy, but it all comes down to enriching your life, and adding experiences is a way to create lifelong memories. Some of the reasons why there are often changes made to theatre shows also apply to the way that physical possessions don’t make us as happy as experiences do. These include the fact that we get used to ‘new’ things and they become ‘old’ due to adaption, we are always wanting more, and we can’t help but compare some things to others, so keeping things fresh is essential.
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Overall, just like everything else, the theatre is always changing, yet these changes manage to keep the magic of the experience without altering the performance too much so that it is completely different. Theatre is just one example of why experiences are what makes us happy in the long term; nothing can compare to the feeling of seeing your favourite performance right there on the stage. With wonderful actors and incredible effects taking place in front of your very eyes, it is truly magical.