16th April 2021
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What Makes Theatre So Special?

What Makes Theatre So Special?
By Marcus Lilley

Theatre in 2020 left plenty of us asking questions. How would be operate in this climate? What is the future for theatre. It was a period of great uncertainty but led to lots of exploration in new areas. It is period of time that will not be forgotten. In the midst of this uncertainty, I have been thinking a lot about what makes theatre so special.

Learning skills for life

My first tangible memory of theatre was in my first year of secondary school. I remember doing an improvisation exercise where a family took were on an airplane that crashed. Between lessons I would think about the family, who they were and where they were going. Drama very quickly became my favourite lesson. I soon got involved with school plays and a local youth theatre. What makes theatre so special to me is that I have learned so many skills that have been applicable to so many areas of my life ever since. Through studying drama you learn key sills in how to perform, present, work as a team and to be punctual. You may not realise you are learning these skills at the time but it’s amazing when you think about it the number of life skills you pick up through studying drama.


Like all art forms, theatre has the power to help inform you about the world that we live in. I’ve learned so much about the world from theatre performances. During my college years we studied the work of British playwright Joe Orton whose plays such as Entertaining Mr Sloame and The Erpingham Camp discussed homosexuality in Britain during the 1960’s when it was still a criminal offence. These plays offered a view into a period of Britain’s history that has been heavily overlooked. In the last few years the work of Ad Infinitium have showcased areas of life and society that I’ve not personally been touched by but have left a lasting impression of me because they discussed, probed and highlighted issues that are vital. No Kids presents the issues presented by a same sex couple on whether or not to start a family. Whilst Extraordinary Wall o̶f̶ ̶S̶i̶l̶e̶n̶c̶e̶ presented three different stories of oppression and the story of British Sign Language.

Site-specific work also gives you the opportunity to understand more of locations. Witness for the Prosecution  is set in the splendid surroundings of London County Hall and gives the audience the opportunity of not only seeing a fantastic theatre production but know more about the London County Hall itself.


Entertainment is crucial to our personal existence. We always need escapism from our day-to-day lives in order to keep a perspective on things. Whether it would be a best-selling novel or a blockbuster film, the power of entertainment is undeniable. When it comes to theatrical entertainment, few very things come close to the same level of excitement. The sense that you are seeing something live with a selected number of people is something it is hard if not impossible to replicate in other art forms.

No theatre performance is ever the same. If ever there is a moment when I am feeling lost or uncertain watching a theatre performance is more often than not the first thing I think to do. One of my favourite theatre productions to see is the Agatha Christie classic murder mystery The Mousetrap  set in the fictional Monkswell Manor. The play, which is the longest running play in London’s West End, is a fabulous example of the power of storytelling to catapult you into a world of escapism. The outrageously talented Mischief Theatre company are another example who demonstrate that farce, fantastic writing and excellent comedy timing can generate huge excitements for audiences. If you ever do get a chance to watch any of their shows you must. Currently you can see their BBC television series The Goes Wrong Show on BBC iPlayer here or their lockdown show Mischief Movie Night.

Theatre is and always will be magical. Despite the unprecedented challenges that we as an industry face, it has the power to overcome adversity, adapt to the new surroundings and come out stronger and more determined. We are blessed as an industry to be populated by people who are passionate and devoted to the enhancement of theatre. What makes theatre so special? For me it’s my been the central character in my life and I can’t imagine a life without it.

Also by Marcus Lilley:

Has 2020 Given Us a New Hybrid Model of Performance?

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