Amphitheatre Staging Effects on an Audience

Written by frank luger | 13/05/2017
Amphitheatre Staging Effects on an Audience
Once the scene of bloody gladiatorial combats, amphitheatres now offer more peaceful entertainment. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

An amphitheatre is typically an open-air venue of which there are two basic types. One, akin to the amphitheatres of the Ancient Romans, features a circular performance area surrounded by banked or tiered seating. The other has the shape of a sector of a circle, with the performance area running from the pointed part of the sector to the arc of the circle and with the audience area beyond that.


The Roman-type amphitheatre allows an audience to have a clear view of the play or other performance, albeit from an elevated position and at least for most members of the audience. Looking down on the action can give an audience a sense of being in the position of a judge, as characters commit acts which may be foolish, unprincipled and even criminal. In an amphitheatre that is a sector shape the stage may be elevated so that the audience is looking up at the action, which gives the director altogether different staging possibilities.


In a Roman-type amphitheatre, many performers hold their heads upwards, in an attempt to project their voices to the very top of the seating. Likewise, performers often slowly turn through 360 degrees as they deliver key speeches, to ensure that everyone in the audience hears what is being said. In the sector-type amphitheatre, the sector shape is essentially a sound funnel, so that every sound produced during the performance travels out naturally to the audience.


In both types of amphitheatre, the audience is likely to be physically closer to the action than in some other types of theatre. A skilled director can use this physical closeness to her advantage, to achieve a more engaging production. For parts of the play that are emotionally heightened, the director can slow the action down and call for more sensitive performances, so that the audience has more opportunity to connect with and be moved by the unfolding drama.


The pace of theatrical works staged in both types of amphitheatre is often faster than that of other theatres. Sets are usually absent in Roman-type amphitheatres, since they would cut across the sight lines of some of the audience. According to Professor Andrew Gurr, this means that plays are often staged without scene or act breaks, and are delivered at a pace designed to hold an audience's attention. Likewise, the readily apparent, open-air nature of sector-type amphitheatres often dictates a bold, public and fast-paced style of delivery, influenced in part by the vagaries of the weather.

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