Understanding the Contemporary Value of Past Methods of Producing Theatre:Toward a Tripartite Approach to Venue - Performance - Document

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Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
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Award date2017
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Abstract

This thesis evaluates the contemporary relevance of recent historical relationships between alternative theatre and its venues. It examines these relationships through what I term – following Pearson (2010) – a ‘tripartite’ approach to venue, performance and the archival documents that record them. The research engages in a practice-based methodology that aims to reconstruct such relationships using the performance history of Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff,
in the 1970s as a major case study. In Chapter One the thesis draws on literature from three distinct fields in theatre and performance studies that have each addressed different facets of the relationship between venue, performance and document: the debate on the relationship between performance and archive (Taylor 2003, Reason 2003 and 2006, Roms 2013), the discussion on re-enactment (esp. Schneider 2001 and 2011) and literature on site and “ghosting” (esp. Carlson 2003; Taylor 2003). I argue that the available literature does currently not consider sufficiently the historical role that the venue played as both a physical site and a producing facility for the performance work that happened within it.
To explore further the relationship between venue-performance-document, I turn in Chapter Two to case studies of recent projects that have examined this in reference to Chapter Arts Centre and its contemporaries, Arnolfini (Bristol) and the CCA (Glasgow). Chapter Three offers an account of the performance history of Chapter Arts Centre in the 1970s, based on archival research and oral history interviews, to examine the relationship between the venue’s innovative residency programme and its visiting performance companies. Chapter Four is a
reflective account of my three practice-based experiments, in which I develop and test my ‘tripartite’ approach, drawing on literature on embodied historiographic practice (Taylor 2003; 2006) and adopting a form of “generative” and “active” archive (Lepecki 2010). To conclude I reflect on the value for today of thus reaching back to former approaches and policies, suggesting that the tripartite reconstruction of the three elements of a venue’s past offers a transferable model with which to communicate a vital aspect of performance history.