Saturday, 5 December 2015

Build your theatre to reflect social values

In 1775, Ledoux proposed a radical break from the existing architecture of French theatres. Whereas previously that had been designed 'like tennis courts' (rectangular and long), Ledoux wanted to take inspiration from 'the simplest actions of humanity'. Following the lead of a crowd assembling around 'a charlatan' in a public square, he aimed for a semi-circular auditorium with, of course, those who paid the most at the front.

He also insisted that the tradition of the cheapest tickets offering standing room only was an insult to French dignity. Then he listed the hierarchy of the audience.

I have tried to satisfy all ranks: those who hold the senior posts... shall have private seats plus a room with a fireplace; the amphitheater will be occupied by the men who pay the most, the balcony by the Etat-Major, the first tier of boxes by the wealthiest women... and finally the parterre by those who pay the least.

In addition, Ledoux notes that the decoration of the venue will follow the taste of the audience, rejecting the 'too gilded or the too shabby'.

How very charming and bourgeois. Hierarchy made explicit, and Ledoux's interest is focused not on the needs of the stage but those of the audience. 

Archives departementales du Doubs

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