ON MECHANICAL THEATRE - read text

In the classical proscenium theatre, the stage and the auditorium were architecturally the same. With the arrival of electricity however, the contrast in lighting between the stage and the auditorium become so extreme that the viewer is now physically separated from the action which from then on was entirely contained in an optical box.

A good part of the twentieth century is spent trying to find an architecture able to merge again the stage and the auditorium into a coherent whole, and to bridge the gap between the participants of the performance. But gradually, perception is changing with high speed travel and with the cinema, which begins to establish a language where the spectator is virtually thrown from one side of a space to the other and goes suddenly towards and then away from an action. From there come the idea to modify the relationship between the stage and the auditorium during the performance, to use film on stage and to bring the machinery out of the ‘stage tower’.

Scenography is no longer limited to planting the sets and orchestrating the machinery. The director and the scenographer share the mise-en-scène: the former of the actors, the latter of everything else – the space and the audience.

This historical research informs our radical proposal for a theatre for tomorrow.

Project + Essay – Abstract in Annuel n°4, 1997-1998, pp 92-93, published by the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture et de Paysage de Lille.