Saturday, February 05, 2005

To amplify?


Or not? The question, posed by James Fenton in this week’s Guardian Review (a books magazine, and one of the best ‘free’ offerings around) interests me. Do we want our actors to appear unassisted? I’d say yes. When I go to the theatre, I want the human–sized, attention–sized, attention–filled, intimate atmosphere of a theatre — hence no speakers needed. If I want amplified drama (and I often do) I turn to my DVD collection, or the cinema. It’s the same with music. However well–recorded your CD, however good your HiFi, you are listening to a layer of machinery between your ears and the musician and room (or hall, church, wherever). Classical music: I nearly always prefer a live performance. ‘Popular’ music: I nearly always prefer a CD.

If reading a gentle, readable, cultured poet (heh, and that’s not me, it’s James Fenton!) who’s writing about a subject dear to him isn’t enough for you, what about a Thing? Inspired by the Review’s photo of an amphitheatre, I remembered looking at the Third Reich in Ruins site (filled with photos of, and info about, the remaining architecture of Nazi Germany). Thingstätte (Thing arenas) were open–air arenas modelled on Roman amphitheatres.

In 1934 the Nazi Propaganda Ministry under Joseph Goebbels began a movement based on the “Blut und Boden” (Blood and Soil) ideology — the so–called “Thing” movement. A Thing was an ancient Nordic/Germanic gathering of the people, in an outdoor setting. The Nazi Thing gatherings were to be held in specially–constructed outdoor amphitheaters, called (in the singular) Thingplatz or Thingstätte. Here, the people would gather for Völkisch meetings and to view theater and propaganda presentations written especially for the Thing style. The Thing sites were to be built as much as possible in a natural setting, incorporating rocks, trees, water bodies, ruins, and hills of some historical or mythical significance.

Leaving the hateful ideology which led to these places completely aside, I think they are a superb marriage of landscape and architecture, although I react to them with the same sense of the sinister which this blogger (superb photos of the Heidelberg site) senses. Had any other country built them, they would be justly popular to this day and ideal for theatre, music or poetry. Hmm.

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