‘A design for doing’: The Status of the Text in Contemporary British Theatre
Royal Holloway, University of London
Year of enrolment: 2014 -
Supervisor: Professor Dan Rebellato
This thesis proposes to investigate the tensions around current understandings of the written text in British theatre. It will focus in particular on the ambiguous status of the theatre text, which can be seen as both a design for performance and a complete object in itself, and the often disingenuous binary between ‘text-based’ and ‘non-text-based’ approaches that persists in both the development and discussion of new work.
In Postdramatic Theatre (2006), Hans-Thies Lehmann writes: ‘The new theatre confirms the not so new insight that there is never a harmonious relationship but rather a perpetual conflict between text and scene’. The friction between the theatre text and performance that is pointed to by Lehmann is particularly pronounced in the British theatre industry, in which work is still largely cleaved into separate categories on the grounds of a simplified and often false understanding of its relation to text. It is this friction that I wish to address.
This study proposes to look not only at the theatre text itself, but at the various cultural institutions that support and perpetuate its current understanding and use within a 21st-century British context, testing this understanding across a range of different performance contexts. It will also dedicate particular attention to the institution of theatre criticism, whose influence in this area has to date been given little interrogation within the academy.
I will ask how the role of the text is currently understood in British theatre and how this understanding might be challenged and unsettled. By breaking down misleading distinctions between ‘text-based’ and ‘non-text-based’, how might it be possible to rethink the status of the text in contemporary British theatre? What implications do theoretical understandings of the theatre text have for the British theatre industry? And is it possible to find a new vocabulary to discuss the relationship between text and performance? Website: http://catherinelove.co.uk/