15th Oct 2015
The Frame and its significance in viewing. The open structure that gives shape and support to something, an enclosing case or border into which something is fitted or built up. The frame of a picture.
I went to the theatre on Friday. To see The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime, at the Gieldgud, in Shaftesbury Avenue. These London theatres are now pretty old. This one was built in 1906, and built in a time when box sets prevailed. A three walled room or space with the audience being allowed to view in through the invisible so called “Fourth Wall”.
The Gieldgud is a proscenium theatre, that is, we the audience are restricted by what we can see, it is one directional, we view from in front of the scenery. Very Roman, unlike the Greeks who could see ‘in the round’ and sit with any view. London theatres of this type have a Proscenium Arch, which frames the action on the stage behind it. Should an actor cross the proscenium onto the apron and for example speak to the audience, then he would be said to ‘break the fourth wall’, that is to topple the illusion that we look into another world, or scene, and that we are party to a voyeuristic experience. However, that could still be perfectly correct in the context of a play!
The 'Dog In The Nighttime' actually does use a box set, and just like a picture frame, anything not to be seen is simply placed outside the constraints of the proscenium arch and can be referred to, analysed and assessed but without inclusion visually or physically. The story extends beyond the frame, but only in referent. Behind what is seen, (the scene) the three dimensional action of the play continues, and extends, to imagined and even verbalised action in the wings, the flyspace above the stage, or as asides to the audience at front.
But the proscenium arch remains a boundary window, it ‘frames’ a statement, a clear and definitive expressed intention. That this boundary contains what you are being shown. Everything within, is what the viewer is being invited to look at. And yet in a photograph the confines of frame are unsatisfactory. Why? The answer maybe found in the fact that the physical photograph is two dimensional, it has no actual depth and its three dimensional effect is illusionary. Western culture reads from left to right. Words and image is viewed across, from the left first and then back into the picture if compelled. However we can only look over it and across it but we cannot enter into it. For this reason, in so many photographic viewings, we are compelled to slide unobtrusively out of the frame and continue the journey of the narrative. We are bound to add our own third dimension, that of time, what came before, what comes after and how does the scene before us play out for the participants and protagonists. The pivotal centre is shown, but only in relation to that which surrounds and binds it in position. The picture is viewed from a certain point - a ‘point of view’, and with a certain mentality - a ‘frame of mind’, and the boundary indicates a finished piece and invites the act of looking.
I really enjoyed the The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime. Although modern tastes often do not generally favour the fourth wall concept, I thought it’s boxed set coupled with amazing modern techno lighting and simple but effective staging had me delighting in a modern show in a very traditional theatrical space, and its good to be reminded of how frames and windows play their parts in our phyche when viewing.