When one is fortunate enough to attend a banquet, one is given to certain expectations. The meal is to be rich and delicious, well-balanced so that each course does not erase the tastes of the other, but instead enhances them. An amuse-bouche inflames the palate without satiating it, a lighter soup or salad leads into a heavy, meaty main course. And of course, there’s the promise of dessert at the end, one final sweet treat to send you home full and content.
The idea of the fourth wall in theatre is a result, in part, of the writing of 18th century French critic and philosopher Denis Diderot - and the contribution his writing made to the rise of theatrical realism. Diderot advocated for a more natural style of acting - as if real events were happening in front of an audience that could be observed through a transparent fourth wall of the room in which they’re taking place. This notion led to the more ‘traditional’ set up of Western theatre we’re used to now - in which the fancifully termed proscenium arch is the frame through which a play is often observed, and there’s a clearly defined stage area emphasized by things like curtains and lighting.