‘All the world’s a stage’, penned the bard, and judging by the amount of drama that seems to go on – particularly centred in and around sl – that could easily be a very apt appraisal of the virtual world too. However for most of us, i would hope Shakespeare’s epithet is simply a wry observation on the trials and tribulations of life, rather than an indictment of self-serving bad behaviour and attention-seeking.
However, speaking from an altogether different perspective, the stage, and all the paraphernalia surrounding it, has been a formative and significant part of my life – although for some time it’s been placed on the back-burner and may possibly stay there for good – you see, it does have a habit of taking over one’s life, and not always in the most satisfactory way.
From an extremely early age, i was brought up with and involved in theatre. By the time i reached my teenage years i was already a veteran in stagecraft, having gained a huge amount of experience both treading the boards and backstage, but it was behind the scenes that i really came into my own. Plays, musicals, opera, open-air, amateur and professional productions filled my spare time… working everything from village halls, right through to professional backstage engagements in the West End.
The theatre is a strange world, particularly when you’ve been involved in as many aspects of it that i have – i can, for example, speak at length, and not without some authority, about everything from stage make-up to lighting rigs, mixing desks to scenery construction. And where else can you have the opportunity to play with pyrotechnics, become embroiled in art deco furnishings and Elizabethan costume, actually put a bowline and rolling hitch to practical use, and fire a .44 Magnum into a dustbin?
All great fun, up to a point, and a means to gaining a remarkable insight into the world, a whole range of esoteric skills, human nature and one’s own abilities. However, i’d have to say that actors can be amongst the most precocious, self-centred and punchable people in the world; and stage crew can be amongst the most miserable! Even so, the theatre was pretty much my sole recreational activity for many, many years. In fact it probably pervaded my life in many other ways too – as a young child, many the time you could have found me closeted away alone in my bedroom – whilst friends played together in the park – creating toy theatres, scenery and actors from cardboard, Lego and whatever else lay to hand. Indeed, one of my greatest successes at school combined theatre and one of my other favourite pursuits at the time, resulting in an exam-beating documentary short film about stage craft – yes, i think i can honestly say it was in my blood.
Today, things are very different: i made a conscious decision to put all that behind me. It had become an all-consuming drain on my time and energy; everyone wanted a piece of me, and there simply wasn’t enough to go around. Then there was the politics, infighting and ‘drama’ off the stage… it wears you down. So i tried other things, developed new interests and – although i wouldn’t say i’ve never looked back – things are probably the better for it.
Even so, when something is in your blood, it never completely goes away, and over time i’ve begun to realise that sl has become the stage upon which many of the unwritten scenes in my imagination are performed. On this virtual platform, i’m not only the producer and director, but the actor too; better still, i can immerse myself in those things i enjoyed most of all – stage manager, lighting, sound and scenery – and i even get to be the audience, should i so desire.
One of the things that always appealed about theatre, particularly from the technical point of view, is that it is a precisely controlled environment: entrances and exits are prescribed, changes happen on cue, sets are erected upon their intended marks, and everybody has their own assigned role and tasks, executed in a precisely planned sequence. Unlike the real world, you can always anticipate and plan ahead and you always know who’s in charge. It’s really not a world apart from sl, and perhaps that’s why i relate to it so well.
Certainly things inworld don’t always go to plan, but in the main everything does what it’s supposed to do, when it’s supposed to, and in the manner you intended, and – just as i did in my bedroom all those years ago, with my Lego figures and cardboard scenery – i watch as the characters i have created act out a performance that never fails to secure my own private ovation.
All the world’s indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage
Rush – Limelight