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Thursday, 8 August 2013

When Is Cinema Not Theatre? When It's Television.

I went to see The Audience the other day.  Popular West End drama, run finished a while back, but thanks to an encore digital screening I got to catch it in my local cinema.  It was rather fun, but I can't quite decide whether I enjoyed it because of the quality of the drama or because of the nature of the overall experience.  It was like watching an old friend coming back to me.  It was television.  Television as it used to be.  Some actors walked into a room and three cameras (I think) were pointed at them.  Someone vision mixed the images together, occasionally (but unobtrusively) the camera panned or zoomed in and out.  Otherwise, it just recorded the passage of action.  Just like television used to do.
Now, I'm not knocking the innovations in television drama afforded by following film techniques.  There are some very good bits of drama created by tight editing, jump cuts, filters, voice-overs and constant background music.  But these are effected created by the technicians.  The old school method, a few cameras and a vision mixer, the theatre as opposed to the film route, meant that actors played scenes - that the pace and timing of a scene were live, dependent on the skill of the players.  And I miss that.  Because not only can actors not play scenes on television, writers don't really write them anymore.  And I miss that too.
But now I don't have to - I can see theatre, by going to the cinema, to watch television.

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