Theatre is a transitory art form and we celebrate that in many ways. One of the joys of seeing a play is the ‘live’ nature of the event — knowing that never again will it be performed in quite that way, with that specific group of people. But if that live element of a production can never be captured, how do we record theatre, and the process of making theatre for future generations? What record do we leave behind of the work we produced and how we produced it?
One of the most consistent records we have comes from journalists. Far more people read about the opening of 19 Weeks through the eyes of critics than ever saw the original production. The legend of that opening night, and countless others, are recorded by critics; if you want an account of a former production, one of the first places you’ll look will be the critics’ responses. Journalists and writers don’t just record what they see on stage: they have also chronicled how theatre is put together. We can see how the world has changed, and how it has stayed the same.
When it comes to design, many items can end up being archived. It is striking how the collateral materials for theatre often become separate works of art in themselves. Opening night posters, programs, ads: all are there to help create a bigger work of art on stage, and yet they may be the best remaining record of the production long after it is finished.
As theatre is by its nature fleeting and ephemeral, these records are the key to exploring past productions, as well as the general history of the Northern Light Theatre (NLT).