Theatre from a point of texture | Sunday Observer

Theatre from a point of texture

14 November, 2021

A work of literature can be described, analysed for its ‘texture’ by dissecting the ‘text’, which is quite plainly the material that forms the narrative. The material that forms the narrative could be not only the words but also elements such as illustrations which are meant to be an integral narrative element.

One of the prime examples of how elements such as diagrams and illustrations may work as devices that function in narrating the story in postmodern literature is demonstrated through certain novels of Czech born French writer Milan Kundera.

Although quite worlds apart from the form and ‘material’ and the technology involved when compared to literature, a work of cinema too can be analysed for its texture. The composite of audio visual elements and how these two components further subdivide in terms of variations can be a means to discerning the texture of a work of cinema.

John Crowe Ransom was an American poet and critic whose contributions to the scholarship of letters are of monumental proportions.

A Rhodes Scholar who read classics at Oxford, Ransom propounded that literary criticism should adopt more scientific approaches that would be “more precise and systematic”.

New criticism

The approach which Ransom adopted in literary criticism was to give birth to what is termed as “New criticism”. Among what New criticism has produced to the world of literary studies and criticism is the concept of ‘texture’.

The word ‘texture’ originates from the Latin word ‘texere’ which means ‘to weave’. The stem of the word’s meaning, therefore, gives the impression that ‘texture’ looks at how a text is ‘woven’; as in ‘how’ and ‘what’ make up the text if viewed as a ‘fabric.’ This view, of course, would be optimal when approaching a piece of writing as opposed to an art form as cinema.

What I would like to propound as an idea in this article in relation to the critical analysis approach of ‘texture’ is how it could possibly be applied to drama and theatre. Theatre after all unlike cinema is a medium that involves ‘live performance’ and the impact of the performance can vary on a host of aspects that could be heightened in some shows whereas lessened in some.

The texture of a work of theatre can in that sense be dynamic when compared to a work of cinema, since each performance could have little ‘threads’ that can be increased or decreased in each performance to vary its effect on the audience.

Aspects in theatre production

The range of aspects to look at in a theatre production as between elements that are performed ‘live’ as opposed to delivered as a recording through a sound system, also would have a bearing on the task of discerning the ‘texture’ of a stage play.

Another angle to discern part of the ‘threading’ of a work of theatre could be by looking at what elements come within the scope of what is controlled by the performers ‘artistically’, and how those elements could vary on a starkly human basis, whereas other more technical elements could be seen as perhaps attributed to the choice of machines or technology opted for by the drama director or the producer of the show.

The texture of a medium of art as theatre where live performance is the definitive fundamental, can, therefore, be composed of what is directly woven into the fabric of performance by actors, such as facial expressions, bodily movements, and vocal output in the form of monologues, dialogues, exclamations, and singing, to aspects of the performance such as background music, choral music, lighting, costumes, stagecraft, makeup, and other effects such as fog / smoke.

The manner in which these elements (and others which I may have failed to identify) are marshalled by the director to bring his or her vision to life on stage thus determines the texture of the play.

To a large extent, it is about how the structure of the work of theatre is conceived and executed by weaving together diverse elements. This structure, depending on the degree of smoothness of each of the elements woven together, presents the work’s ‘texture’.