Last night I went to see the National Theater UK’s simulcast (tape-delayed) of Helen Mirren performing in Ted Hughes’ translation of Racine’s Phedre at the Shakespeare Theater. The tragedy of Phedre is misinformation, misguided helpers, and passion that has gone beyond sweet engagement to maddened attachment.
A stage production is intimate and designed for the small audience of those present in the theater. When it is merely filmed (instead of being turned into a movie), it sometimes feels forced because it is watching a film of a stage production, instead of being invited in as one is when one is either at the stage production or the filming is done as a movie, which is designed to include the viewer in a manner for the film.
What was hard about watching the filming of the stage production, was being forced to have the camera’s and director’s perspective; there was no ability to turn my head and shift which part of the stage to give my attention. At the same time, I felt appreciative of the miraculous offerings of technology: the filming made something that is usually limited to those who can afford theater of that extraordinary quality and who are able to be in a certain place at a certain time available to tens of thousands around the globe, including me and my friend. In that way, the filming both took away the intimacy of being physically present, but simultaneously created a unifying experience for a much bigger group of people.
I was inspired to think about the limitations and differences among the perceptions of the characters, of the critics (talking about the play and the film), of the smaller, elite audience (the actual theater goers’ — I’ve been at that theater in London), of the technologically broadened audience, and of mine in response to the essence of the tragedy, the story and substance of the play, the delivery of the play, and my own life as informed by the play.
It seems an interesting lesson on many levels on how we can choose to live with our passions, how we can react to limits and changes in our ability to perceive our own selves and the world around us, and on how and what we invite in through the doors of our perception.