Can theatre really change your life? – open thread

Educating Rita at the Trafalgar Studios, London

There’s plenty of debate about whether theatre can change the world, but what about individual lives? We’ve talked in the past about the way that seeing the right show or play at the right time means that it feels as though it’s supplying exactly what you need at that particular moment. Or as playwright Samantha Ellis suggests, theatre is often a very good place not just to passively watch and consume, but also to think.

But could seeing A Doll’s House or Educating Rita really make you reassess your marriage? Julie Walters thinks so. At a the British Independent Film Awards this week, she bemoaned the lack of central parts for older women, but also said that that she still meets women who had left their husbands to get an education after seeing Willy Russell’s play-turned-movie, Educating Rita, in which Walters starred opposite Michael Caine 30 years ago.

Of course seeing a particular play can have a huge influence upon the work of other playwrights. In an American book called The Play That Changed my Life leading US playwrights talk about the drama that influenced their own work. Lynne Nottage talks of a play with talking lima beans that entranced her; for Edward Albee it was a musical called Jumbo with Jimmy Durrante that made him fall in love with the alternate reality presented on stage. Without Jumbo there may have been no Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I very much believe that being involved with theatre can change lives, particularly via participatory projects , but although I’m inclined to think that shows can – and often do – play to your particular concerns, I’m slightly doubtful that people walk into a theatre and emerge transformed. But if you think I’m wrong and you have experienced an epiphany moment in the theatre, then do please share.

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