Among students, the theatre is a somewhat undervalued entertainment option. Movies have always been a good social outlet for students, from primary school right up to graduation. Whether it is a group getting together at the cinema or gathering in a living room with a DVD, a night in or out with a movie is a classic, staple social activity. The theatre would appear to be the movie’s less valued, under-appreciated little brother. However, theatre has so much to offer, and being movie’s much, much older brother, it has decided it is time to reveal its true wonder to students.
Unbeknownst to many students, UCC owns the Granary Theatre just minutes from campus down on the Mardyke. A small but dynamic theatre, this venue hosts UCC Dramat’s shows and UCC Drama students’ show-cases such as for their FYP, as well as professional productions. For those willing to trek further afield, Cork is scattered with play houses. The Everyman stands proudly on the North-side while the Opera House dominates the banks of the Lee, but smaller venues exist in the form of Corks Arts Theatre and the Triskel. But why should students be tempted to wander towards these hallowed halls?
The theatre, like the cinema, is perfect for an easy night out with friends, or even for a date. A visit to the cinema entails one showing up, meeting who they are due to meet, exchanging a few words, and taking their seat for the next two hours (forgive me, maybe there was a fight about what size popcorn to purchase at some point). When the movie ends nobody is sure if that is the end of the night or if they should make a suggestion to stay out, and, if so, to go where and do what. This is particularly awkward on dates.
At the theatre, however, there is a lobby for everyone to meet prior to the show with refreshments available, and in many locations there is a bar. You can meet up, relax, have a chat, and get excited about what you are about to see. There will be a programme for you to flick through and comment on, and often you will run into people you know as everyone waits together as opposed to entering as they arrive and sitting uncomfortably in the dark for a while. Upon entering the theatre the lights will go down and the drama is brought to life. Everything is real and alive. The energy and intensity radiate from the stage – particularly in the Granary where one is practically arms-length from the action (the most realistic 3D you will ever find). There will be a hand-made set, lighting effects, tricks of the mind and sight. As the drama unfolds you are sucked in in a way a movie can never achieve. Nothing compares to the character being right there in front of you, to the actors talking directly to you, to the rawness of the drama. Never do you wonder how they managed to do that – you sit in awe at what a single person can do and inspire in you without mind boggling technology to help. They can’t air brush or take two to make it perfect at the theatre.
And suddenly, just as you are about to cry out or fall off your seat in anticipation the scene freezes and the lights go up. You now have fifteen minutes (typically) to discuss how the plot will twist next. This is one of the highlights of the theatre – the ability to stretch one’s legs and to reflect and appreciate what one has just seen, and speculate (and often argue) about what will happen. Frequently you will find yourself in rapt conversation, not only with those you know but with others equally enraptured and determined to predict the next twist. Other times you will meet someone who has read the play and you will spend the interval being teased as to the ending but filled in on all the background controversy – what was the playwright dealing with in their own personal life when they were writing this? Which characters reflect real people from the playwright’s life? All too quickly you will find yourself gripping the edge of your seat as the lights come on for the second time. You return to the lobby or the bar to lament or praise the ending. Slowly you will move onto a nearby bar somebody has told you that the cast frequent reluctant to stop discussing the play and full of hope to bump into your new found celebrity heroes.
Just like the cinema, there is a ready-made conversation topic and a dark room where you can stretch your hand around her shoulders. But, better than the cinema, there is much more time to chat and converse, there is the higher chance of interacting with other people, the atmosphere is much more personal and intense as you feed off the actors themselves and there is a natural post-theatre activity. Importantly for students, there are always student discounts.
So while movies have always been an enjoyable social activity for our generation, the theatre has been serving students for many previous generations and has proved time and time again to be just as, if not even more enjoyable. Theatre is ready for a new appreciation. Theatre is ready to regain its place as the classic staple social outlet (and date venue).
If you feel inspired by this article the following are the websites of some of Cork’s theatres which you might find interesting;