Why are they important?
As part of his prize, the winner of the Alan Bates Award 2015 got a role in the Globe Theatres’ Read Not Dead series of live readings. Winner, Luke Dale and his mentor, Paul Clayton, had to brave the infamous stage with script in hand and minute rehearsal time. Not a small feat.
The Globe describes this experience as a “shared adventure” between audience and actor, which indeed it is; these are not polished performances and they are not meant to be. But as an audience member, you are in likelihood still paying for them. So why would you?
Perhaps it is what these experiences offer. Seeing a play read is very different from reading it yourself. It’s all in the name of the Globe’s programme – “READ not DEAD”. Giving the public and actors opportunities to see and be in plays that perhaps don’t make the wider circuit as much as they should. Giving a script it’s very own revival.
Other theatres have similar schemes but with slightly different angles. The Arcola’s PlayWROUGHT season of 12 new plays written by 12 aspiring playwrights for example, seems like a way for individuals to enter the arts industry. This allows a playwright not just to get their work seen if they are new to the business, but it is also a chance get their work heard. In the same essence of reading a play yourself being different to seeing it, writing a play is different to hearing it. Live readings act as a very necessary tool for playwrights to improve and develop their work.
Still not convinced?
Perhaps it’s about access. Access to theatre, access to art, access to an audience. Live readings let an actor get involved in work that is different and developing, they give room to aspiring directors and playwrights to stretch their creative muscles and try new things. But they also give the public access to a much wider net of theatre, art and ideas – they can be a part of the theatre creation process. The Royal Court’s previous Live Lunch season even offered this as an interlude on your lunchbreak – come in with a sandwich and see some theatre in action. Now that’s access if I ever saw it.
So what do you think? Do live readings have a place? Are they important?
Hatty Evans - Marketing and Communications Manager at the Actors Centre