A symbol is something other than the literal. The use of symbol in performance can be very powerful, yet is often challenging to create in drama. Performances that use symbols are often multi-layered, work an audience, and refuse to spoon-feed important information. Effective use of symbol in drama can be both simple and complex. It is generally a sophisticated technique that is well worth the time and effort taken to create it.
Symbol in dramatic performance can be developed using one or more of the following:
A symbol represents something other than the obvious linked by association, relationship or convention. It could be a prop or costume on stage that represents something abstract, such as a concept, quality, or wider idea. Symbols in costumes are often associated by accepted conventions relating to colour, such as a black cloak for a villainous character, or a white flowing gown symbolising purity and innocence. More sophisticated symbols include the use of movement and gesture, sometimes only becoming symbolic when repeated in another context later in the drama. Contemporary theatre often involves the use of multimedia and projection, allowing for symbolic images on stage. Some forms of drama even include characters as symbols of greater concepts, such as early 20th century expressionism.