The joy of tears

10th April 2015

I saw a piece of theatre last week. It was familiar to me. I have both read and seen it several times before. Its plot holds few secrets, and I have grown to love the familiarity of its words and characters – daring to say things they should never say, to love people they should never love, whilst, in the background, the stench of death seeps through the floorboards.

To watch a much-loved play is to be suspended in the vain hope that things may turn out differently.

Alas, no. Romeo and Juliet is a tale as constant as the dark night of winter and the budding rose in June. Mercutio will be murdered. Romeo will knife himself. And Juliet, faithful to the last, will follow in his train.

This much I know.

But last week, something changed.

Last week, at a live performance of Romeo and Juliet in Bristol, I witnessed the death of Mercutio for the first time.

A fact became an experience.

Bloodied, screaming and writhing in front of me, Mercutio became ‘worms’ meat’ in front of my eyes.

I was totally shocked, and unexpectedly began to cry.

I am not a weeper. It is several years since I have felt this way in the theatre. But it took me a whole day to recover from that actor’s performance in that director’s production.

During that time, I meditated on the meaning of what had happened.

It occurred to me that Shakespeare was truly the most gifted marketer of all time.

He wove stories to entertain, to engage and to reflect the truth Elizabethans’ regular human experience. He was ever-sensitive to the needs of his audience – for lust, for blood, for mirth, for stakes – and earned their attention by the truth he placed in front of them.

This was a marketer who knew the value of his product. Shakespeare happily gathered the royal appointments which made him a man of stature in his lifetime, and also the Box Receipts which made him a man of means.

His creations had supreme artistic merit, as well as commercial intent.

For we who are engaged in the terrifying feat of inventing new brands, we become the humble playwrights of our own tales. We are tasked to devise plot, characters and atmosphere which weave the storied universe of these new creations.

In the right hands, a profound piece of theatre can change a man’s life. When the stars align, what we create in marketing has indeed the power to move a man to tears.

Brian McIntyre. 2015.

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