“Creating an Imaginary World – Theatre Design From Temple to Playhouse, Into the Picture Frame and Out Again” with Bertie Pearce – Thursday 5th October 2023

We were able to welcome back Bertie Pearce, but this time not on Zoom, and once again he kept the

audience entranced with his dynamic personality and inspiring lecture, not to mention a lot of laughter.

Bertie has a BA (Hons) in Drama from Manchester University and a Diploma Internationale from the ‘Ecole Internationale du Theatre, Jacques Lecoq.  He is also a member of the Inner Magic Circle, with Gold Star.  Bertie is an Art Society accredited lecturer who has toured the country extensively.  He has a wide experience of lecturing and performing on cruise ships, to historical societies, festivals, schools and colleges, and in addition has toured the world with a magic cabaret show.  He has written articles for newspapers and magazines on entertainment and theatre.

Bertie opened his lecture using a bit of magic – of course!  He did his rope trick, the first one he every learned.  He said to Angela Bailey, who was in the audience this afternoon, that her husband Michael had introduced him to his interest in the Magic Circle.

Bertie said that he had been introduced to the wonderful world of theatre as a young boy of 7 and it inspired his love and great interest. He took us on a journey of how theatre developed from the earliest in Greece 3,000 years ago, when the very beginning of theatre depicted religious events and the orchestra was the dance floor.  He said that the interaction with the gods belonged to Greek theatre.  He talked about and showed drawings of this very early theatre and  its architecture  and the changes during the Hellenistic period.

He then went on to describe the Roman classical theatre and then Medieval theatre when touring minstrels would come and perform in baronial halls or set up a stage in a market place.  He described the early theatres in England, from the Rose Theatre, the first purpose-built playhouse which encouraged other theatre companies to set up, such as the Globe Theatre.  1870 to 1901 was the golden period for theatres when there was no TV or cinemas, with the popularity of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and the Hackney Empire to mention a few.  Italian painters used to come to this county and paint set designs and special effects became very important and elaborate.  In the 1960’s and 70’s Bertie said that Bingo saved a great many theatres from being demolished until people realised what gems these buildings were.  Today in most theatres there is very intricate and complicated machinery and the techniques of set design are very different.  Some famous set designers were  Oliver Messell, Cecil Beeton and Peter Brook, though Peter’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream goes to the opposite of a complicated set design.  Peter is also known to have said that there are only three elements necessary for theatre to exist  “an empty space and the person in action in the space being watched by someone else”

Bertie stressed that the power of the theatre and that the role of theatre has never been more important than it is today. He ended his enthralling lecture with an illusion by the very first magician that he ever saw.

Kathy Goodfellow