Almost Healthy: The patient ambition of Victoria theatre

The theatre arts are a tough sell to contemporary audiences. For Victoria’s long-serving stage companies, the past two years have jeopardized revenue from even their most loyal supporters. But live performances are finally back. As are audiences, both bare-faced and masked. The industry can now return its attention to the eternal challenge: getting butts in seats. 

What does the term theatre evoke for you? Corseted, fainty women being menaced by puffy-sleeved actors—nay, thespians—with rapiers and densely olde language? Unless you were among those daydreamy few seeking asylum from the militancy of high school by puckishly hopping around drama class, you likely share this perception. 

And this is why our local theatre industry is working against two critical marketing obstacles: the long tail of its antiquarian image, and its audiences’ past experiences with hammy plays (à la Waiting for Guffman).

 What unites us, the zealots who seek out that exalted communion between audience and performer, is that we were all lucky enough to experience one show, or one moment within a show, that articulated a private conviction so perfectly that it made us feel less alone.

It’s a sharply visceral connection, a naked mirror, and it’s why the form has remained essentially unchanged for so long. For a company to get that good, to be able to siphon that power, it must work at its craft for ages, with unflagging love and repetition.

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