Every day millions of internet users ask Google lifes most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries
If youve asked why theatre matters, theres every chance you actually work in theatre and are having the kind of late-night solo Drinks Party of the Soul in which, after a bottle of 4.99 corner-shop wine, you end up searching why theatre matter, work theatre no money and, eventually, law conversion cheap free. On the offchance that isnt you though, what you probably mean is: why, in a world with HBO and Imax and the Nintendo Switch, do we still need theatre? Hasnt entertainment sort of naturally evolved from, you know, all that?
The answer of course is that we still have theatre for the same reason the advent of the novel didnt kill the play, and the advent of film didnt kill both: because humans love to share stories, and each new way of doing that gives us more opportunities for, respectively, escapism from and better understanding of the world around us. Reading novels about people different from us engenders empathy and watching sad films boosts feelings of group bonding: theatre has an added feeling of liveness and shared experience like a cross between a gig and the cinema.
Sometimes you want to experience art on your own in the bath, and sometimes you want to share that experience with a bunch of strangers in the dark. We live in a busy, complicated world theres every chance youre reading this on public transport, or on your lunchbreak, or in a few snatched minutes away from your emails and its hard to carve time out to interact with most art forms without checking your phone occasionally, or double screening. Doing several things at once makes us less efficient at all of them, and is bad for our brains but theatre demands your complete attention. (Not least because if you do get caught using your phone, Kevin Spacey might shout at you.)
In a culture that demands you continually remain in reach of your emails and accessible to your boss, spending time sat in the dark being told a story, obstinately suspending your disbelief with people you dont know, can be as defiant an act of self-care as any other.
Ultimately there are as many ways for theatre to matter as there are types of theatre and these days there are lots. From the sweepingly grand blockbuster-style big shows you find in the West End or at the National Theatre, to the intimacy of experimental work in small hot rooms at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, or the excitement of wandering up a set of stairs at the back of a pub and not knowing what youll find at the top. Theatre, like all good art, can be an exercise in escapism or empathy, an adventure or food for the soul, or all of them you might laugh, you might cry, but either way youre sharing something with strangers, and in an increasingly divided world that feels important.