I think this might be at the bottom of everything for me. The piece of theatre is like a piece of music (I think i went near this on the previous post). So there are all sorts of different moods, modes, sounds and textures that you might include. And some theatre makers only write solo pieces, some write complex but facile pop, some write light quartets.. you don’t need to know all the instruments to make something successful. The text is usually our guide because it comprises quite a lot of the information – there’s the actual music and rhythm of the dialogue of course, easily laid out, and a fair map of some of the other instruments: the themes, the moods (sometimes), and depending on the writer, more, or less. But of course in the experiencing of the piece, the scenery, the costuming, the sound and music (enormously), the placing and movement on the stage, the overlapping of one thing into another thing, can re-create those ideas and energise those patterns. We don’t call it a revival for nothing – the text is dead outside of production.
And like a good, complex piece of music, some instruments are off doing something hugely important and almost subliminal while your attention is on the dominant melody lines – they’re setting the context of that line in a way that allows that line to stand out. And sometimes there are multiple strands of melody that are happening simultaneously – and at other times each of them are allowed to be heard alone. The different aspects of the theatrical piece don’t need to be doing the same thing either – if they are all working slavishly together, you only get loudness when you could be having a co-ordinated surge of emotion, action or theme. It’s the sort of advice we give to writers a lot to consider in how they construct their plots, but it’s just as important for everyone else (directors especially).