A guide to the different types of theatre staging
Choosing how to stage a production can be crucial for how a story plays out to the audience. Whether audience members are able to get close to the action or sit all around the stage, a production is staged to compliment every aspect of a show. If you’re confused with your proscenium arches or the difference between a thrust stage and an in the round show, we have put together a guide with the most common types of theatre and stagings. Here’s our top ways of getting your theatre fix in the coming days and weeks too, but how many theatres have you been to?
Types of theatre
Most West End auditoriums are a proscenium arch stage. In this type of auditorium, the arch serves as a frame for the audience to see into, with three walls of staging considered to make sure that nothing blocks the audience view. The “fourth wall” is occupied by the audience, who will sit and face the action straight on. Proscenium arch staging allows everyone to see the show from one direction rather than multiple angles which may mean you have to move. Examples include the Prince of Wales Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket.
End stage theatres are theatres where the audience only sit on one side of the stage. These can be proscenium arch theatres, which are typically rectangular. However, an end-stage theatre can take any shape, size or form, as long as the audience are sitting in one group on one side of the stage.
In the Round
Shows performed “in the round” are performed with the audience surrounding all sides of the stage, allowing for an intimate performance where each angle and sight line has to be considered by the directors and actors. The acting is heavily focused on, with theatre in the round adopted by a creative team in order for the audience to get close to the action. With the acting area is fenced by audience members, performers have to play to everyone and make sure that each patron gets an equal view of the show without being blocked.
Rather than be surrounded by audience members on four sides, a thrust theatre will have audiences sitting on three sides, with the fourth wall serving as a backdrop. Typically extending into the auditorium, performers have the opportunity to play in the middle of the crowd, as well as stand in the background to give a character depth. Normally a square or rectangle stage, they can have more sides. A London thrust theatre is the Globe Theatre, with standing patrons able to see a production from multiple sides in the summer. To see the Globe for yourself, why not take a tour?
A traverse theatre staging has the audience sitting on two sides, similar to a catwalk setup. Traverse theatres are beneficial for creating tension within an audience, especially if a show tells a rivalry story between two parties. In this setup, actors have to make sure both sides can see them equally and play to each corner without prioritising one side over the other.
In an immersive production, the actors and audiences share the same space. Breaking the fourth wall, the performance will take place next to audience members and may even allow those watching to get involved with the show. Vaults is a purpose-built immersive theatre location in London, but for those who are looking to go to an immersive theatre production, book your tickets for The Great Gatsby. Sending audiences to the 1920s, you can step into the party of the era and enjoy an evening of hedonistic fun.
In these types of theatres, the stage and seating are not fixed, leaving the creative team to mould the setup of a theatre to whatever they wish. Similar to an immersive theatre, the audience can sit close to the action. However, black box theatre may not look for the audience to be involved. An example of a black box set up is The Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre. With a capacity of up to 450 people, seating and staging can be rearranged, allowing for a different feel to every production that is held in the auditorium. Take a look at the National Theatre, one of the most prolific theatres in the West End.
Also known as amphitheatres, open-air venues can be staged as a traverse, thrust, in the round or in a proscenium arch style, but they take place outside. The biggest open-air venue in London is Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Drawing in large audiences as theatregoers look to see a show when the sun sets, heading to an open-air theatre creates a unique dramatic experience where the sky really is the limit!
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