STAGING STYLES - PART 1

 25th July 2019

Peter Brook famously said, “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space while someone else is watching him, and that is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”

A stage is a defined performance area that becomes a focus for audience members to engage with the storytelling. In the theatre, there are various staging styles that can be used to define this performance area.

PROSCENIUM

Since the 17th century, the proscenium staging style has been the one most commonly used in the West. It is also referred to as ‘picture frame’ or ‘end-on’ staging. The main feature of this kind of staging is the ‘proscenium arch’ through which the audience views the performance while seated on one side directly facing the stage.

 

There are many advantages to this staging which has also lead to its popularity:

-          Sightlines for the audience are very good.

-          Scenery, backdrops, curtains, lighting can be easily used without the worry of the audience being able to see the setup.

-          Actors only have to face one way to address the audience.

-          Numerous entries and exits are possible for actors and the crew.

At the same time, there are disadvantages to choosing this staging:

-          Since the audience is outside the picture frame view, they can feel removed from the action.

-          Audience sitting further away from the stage or in the corners may not view the entirety of the stage.

-          Set can only work from 2D angles as the audience is only viewing from one side.

 

Image Credits - Academy of Music: Cortlandt V. D. Hubbard, HABS photographer. [Public domain]

This is the most common staging style in India as well, with numerous theatres built with proscenium stages. Examples include the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA; St Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra; Royal Opera House, Mumbai.

Many Aadyam plays have been staged in the proscenium style including 12 Angry Jurors, Merchant of Venice and Under the Gypsy Moon. The upcoming production of A Few Good Men will also be staged similarly at St Andrew’s Auditorium on 21 and 22 July.

Other international productions that have been stage this way include Hamilton, Les Miserables and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

 

IN – THE – ROUND

In stark contrast to a proscenium, this style has action in the centre with audience all around it. It can be a circular performance area with audience sitting in a similar manner or a 4-sided area with audience on each side, also known as an arena style.

        

Interestingly, there is a rotating theatre in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic which allows staging in the round with audience in the centre and performance on the outer ring!