21st April 2021

Despite Technology, The Beauty Of Theatre Is It Will Always Be, People Powered


Increasingly in theatre, the audience are expecting more. More lights, more video, more automation… they want to be treated to an experience akin to dwelling in the world of a blockbuster film. 

To do this takes a monumental effort the more we throw things at our theatre shows, but in an age where human endeavour is measured based on technical development, theatre lovingly has the ability to show us that some things just can’t be done without the human aspect.

I was watching a brilliant video recently published by the National Theatre in London as a behind the scenes look at one of their productions, The Red Barn.

What struck me is that despite the complexity, despite the abundance of technology, despite the modern desire to automate and remove the ‘human element’ wherever possible, theatre is one of the last bastions where this human involvement isn’t merely required but indeed – it is celebrated.

The adage that if the audience doesn’t know you exist, it’s been a successful show, has never been stronger, but to up the ante, as it were, we’ve never been more required. The twelve-man stage crew making magic every night at the National Theatre is just one example in a sea of millions that show us the importance of teamwork, nuance and honing your skill to create a masterpiece.

A lot of the theatre world is driven by technology and this drives us to do more, it enables us almost limitless possibility in terms of what artistically can be achieved but it is refreshing that that human base is where it all begins. The heartland of theatre, the crew seamlessly pushing a truck to hit its mark rivals any choreography of a world class prima ballerina as does the technical nuance of a deck electrician changing gels mid-show to create a sunset and evoke a feeling for an audience that the sun is setting on another day.

Indeed, the visceral satisfaction of technical theatre comes from the fact it’s a team game. A team of talented and dedicated professionals all pushing together for the same thing.

That same team hitting their marks and cues with millisecond precision create the ‘Ooohs and Aaahs’ that make an audience believe they’re in a whole other world while we secretly are standing by to push a whole new world into place. That choreographed precision is electrifying knowing that as something is being struck downstage, a new world is being created, it’s like watching someone open a present you know they’re going to really love – steeped in anticipation as everything comes to fruition just so. This pride, this effort, this camaraderie is electrifying.

Night after night, around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people just like us – pointing spotlights, putting microphones in wigs, clipping in harnesses or pushing giant structures on and off stage at great pace.

Where our world moves towards being more and more computerised every day, it’s refreshing to know that good people still have a celebrated place in our theatre world.

So, here’s to the people that make the magic of theatre happen and no matter how much technology, always will.


Also By Tom Warneke:

The Art Of The Sabbatical

How To Pack Coathangers

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Hailing from his hometown of Melbourne, Tom Warneke is a Technical & Production Manager with experience throughout Australia, Asia and the Middle East. He has worked on many formats ranging from theatre and musicals through to festivals, live music, and major events and mega shows. While his experience stems from Lighting, he has a background in emergency management and works often in helping technical teams manage change. Tom is a trained EMT and has an MBA as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Counter-Terrorism. When not running production on shows, he enjoys finding new music, finding the best unknown restaurants and bars, travelling and exploring new places, and living life in search of great stories and experiences. Tom is currently based in Dubai as an expat, attempting to make sense of a fascinating part of the world.

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