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Theatre as a place in the city.

In Empty Space (1996), Brook writes that in any community, “theatre has either no particular function, or a unique one” (p.121).

This alleged lack of function resonates in me with the notes I took from an interview with a Russian theatre art-director Yelena Kovalskaya.

[About a theatre in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, far-East Russia]

“In this city and this theatre, there is an unspoken agreement between the audience and the actors about what is happening to them. And what is happening is that they do not take on new meanings. They do not bestow reality with new meanings. They find meaning of their existence in this city. They gain here something one cannot get anywhere else in the city” (Kovalskaya, 2020).


The unique function of a theatre is not to translate reality. It is not to educate its audience about reality. It is in simply being a place that gives meaning to its visitors; a reason to gather. Theatre asserts itself in the present (Brook, 1996). It becomes a place where people construct themselves (Demidkin & Kovalskaya, 2020).


“You don't know who you are when on this island. The theatre is the place where you construct yourself [...] Who am I, a person living on the outskirts?. Am I Russian? Am I a man of the world? Am I a man of great culture? A person of specific values? The theatre turns out to be a place where people construct themselves. (Kovalskaya, 2020).


This fundamental lack and abundance of function at the same time led me to a vision of theatre as a place in a city. A term coined by Elena in the same interview, I use it to describe a place that is neither about the content nor about the message. It is a social and political setting. A place that is neither neutral nor opinionated. A place that does not answer but ask questions, but a place that allows you to formulate answers yourself. Constructing is not the end-goal, but a process.


This is an unpublished fragment of my thesis on theatre and its engagement with the city around it. More on the topic can be found in my blog under tag "theatre".

Brook, P. (1996). The empty space (1. ed). Touchstone.

Demidkin, I., & Kovalskaya, Y. (2020). Yelena Kovalskaya on how to build trust [Против театра. Елена Ковальская о том, как строить доверие.]. Against theatre.