Comedy or tragedy?
I’m putting aside the ‘it depends how well performed it is’ metric for this blog, as we needn’t complicate things. The question is simple – do audiences prefer to be uplifted, or cathartically brought to tears?
I used to fall into the latter camp, a sucker for a heartbreaking ending. The Kite Runner, Still Alice and Blood Brothers spring to mind as fantastic examples of shows that tick every box for a good bawl. Let’s not even start on Les Mis.
I’m slowly beginning to only visit ‘sad’ plays on the proviso that I know they’ll be darn good. A poorly performed tear-jerker is often an absolute mess but, when done well, provides beautiful moments. I still leave the theatre drained and less refreshed than I had been before, however. Is that entertainment in the truest sense?
Let’s turn our attention onto comedies. If you haven’t seen any of The Play That Goes Wrong performances, you’re missing out. I left the theatre with aching cheeks, full of beans and ready to tell the world just what a fun evening I had. Could I really say the same for a play that left my mascara smeared down my cheeks?
I suppose this boils down to purpose. Art vs enjoyment. There is a staggering appreciation for good theatre; theatre that makes an audience think and feel and discover. And, ultimately, I think both comedy and tragedy can do that.
I would offer a small nugget of advice, though – stay away from both ends of the spectrum if not performed by a company or cast you know well. An overacted farce can be just as hard to watch as an unbelievable drama. And, if you’re unsure if the play’s for you, I’d have a cheeky peek at reviews online before getting your tickets.
Photograph credited to Geraint Lewis.