chapter  7
Response: actors and audiences
Pages 18

Whatever is enacted on stage finds its fulfilment in the minds of the audience, in their perceptions and reactions. Here, in any analysis, performance should be assessed, as well as in the signs and signals given out from the stage. Travelling to unfamiliar theatres makes this abundantly clear. Many companies, such as the Jatra in India, allow audience members to talk amongst themselves, call out to the actors, move around and meet other people, or eat and drink, fall asleep, or become engrossed with their own concerns. In these theatres, attention is held and developed by more obvious and direct means than are appropriate for audiences with European standards of behaviour and sitting comfortably in dark­ ened auditoriums where silence and no-fidgeting are expected behaviour. Elsewhere, for Nō theatre in Japan or Kutiyattam in Kerala, an audience’s freedom is on a different level and, in one sense, even greater, since these perfor­ mances never try to grab attention or spring surprises, or overwhelm an audience's senses with irresistible sights and sounds. These theatres encourage a willing submission and intense attention so that a few of those who watch may enter the dramatic illusion so fully that they find a quiet, deep-seated, and imag­ inatively active satisfaction. A major task for both critic and director is to determine what kind of audience-stage relationship between these extremes is most appropriate for each playtext and production.