"The actor is an Instant Analyst." Peter Brook --
Nothing in the theatre has any meaning "before" or "after". Meaning is "now". An audience comes to the theatre for one reason only, which is to live a certain experience and an experience can only take place at the moment when it is experienced. When this is truly the case, the silence in a theatre changes its density and in every form of theatre, in all different traditions and all the different types of theatre all over the world you can see exactly the same phenomenon. An audience is composed of people whose minds are whirling — as they watch the event, sometimes this audience is touched — again we do not really know what "touched" means, except that it is a phenomenon. At first, the audience isn't touched — why should it be ? Then all of a sudden, something touches everyone. At the moment that they are touched an exact phenomenon occurs. What has been up till then individual experiences becomes shared, unified. At the moment when the mass of people becomes one, there is one silence and that silence you can taste on the tongue. It's a different silence from the ordinary silence that is there at the beginning of the performance and it is a silence that can, according to the quality that is lived by the actor, become an experience that is of another quality for the audience, one which each person recognises. This shared recognition expresses itself through the increasing density of the same silence.
Because of this, one can see that there is a mystery which has always been present in the nature of a theatre event. And I think this must be linked to something very fascinating — the difference between drama and tragedy. When an audience sees a sordid, miserable reflection of the misery of life, if this is amusingly presented, or excitingly presented the audience can have a good and interesting evening and applaud at the end. But this is not what one means by the word tragedy. Tragedy has a very special effect. If tragedy reaches the intensity we've just described when the deepest of silences is produced in the audience, then the audience confronts the intense core of a living experience, and the audience leaves the theatre totally renewed.
Now, the very obscure word "catharsis" refers to this, but unfortunately a word cannot help one's understanding. What can help us, on the contrary, is to return to the question, recognising a true enigma when we meet one. When terror is aroused in a particular way, instead of the reaction being negative, something positive is released. This seems to me very important to stress because the theatre has a possible vocation — it can be a healing process. There was a time, the time of Greek tragedy, when a whole city could come together and the fragmentation of all the individuals who make up the city would be transformed into a shared, intense experience in which self is transcended. For a moment, a life of a completely different nature was tasted and then each person would leave the theatre and go back into their ordinary preoccupations. But a temporary healing of the diseased and fragmented community took place, even if the fragmentation and the conflicts took place again as people left the theatrical space. And the transformation and the taste — and the confidence — it gave could take place again and again whenever the audience came together in the special circumstances of a performance. Society cannot be healed permanently, but temporary healings can constantly redress the balance.
Film-North * Anatoly Antohin