European Theatre(s) - Crossing Borders, Negotiating Boundaries, Circulating Legacies

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Central Sch of Speech and Drama
Department Name: Postgraduate School


The traditional antagonism between British theatre and Continental European theatre approaches (signified by the aesthetics of "directors' theatre" and its ensemble mode of creation) has in the past five years been increasingly eroded by a range of influential theatre productions on British stages. These include the multi-national European co-production 'Three Kingdoms' and the 'Secret Theatre' ensemble season, both at the Lyric Hammersmith, and Flemish director Ivo van Hove's success at the Young Vic with Arthur Miller's 'View from a Bridge'. A generation of new British theatre makers (such as Joe Hill-Gibbins and Carrie Cracknell) have arrived at major theatres (National Theatre, Young Vic, RSC) with their work, which has absorbed impulses from contemporary Continental theatre aesthetics and 'directors' theatre'. Theatre of Europe adds to this field as a timely new theatre initiative. Funded by the European Commission and the network of European national cultural institutions EUNIC, it brings Continental European theatre makers to the UK to restage some of their seminal productions with a British cast, for UK audiences. Following a research and development period of two years, Theatre of Europe will formally launch in the 2014/15 season with projects by theatre directors from Germany, France, Cyprus, and Romania in their inaugural season. The European Theatre Research Network, a renowned and prominent research centre at the University of Kent, with its like-minded mission of cultural exchange between non-English European theatre and the Anglophone performing arts world, has established a formal research partnership with Theatre of Europe. Out of this emerges this collaborative doctoral project for PhD research on the topic 'European Theatre(s) - Crossing Borders, Negotiating Boundaries, Circulating Legacies'.
For her research, the PhD student will have access to the ongoing activities of Theatre of Europe - workshops, rehearsals, and performances. She will observe the work, undertake interviews with the artists involved, and document and reflect on this unique and innovative theatre project as it grows. Based on this first-hand insight, and complemented with suitable additional case studies and/or historical research, the doctorate will chart and interrogate perspectives and problems of creating a sustainable collaboration and exchange between the different aesthetic and pragmatic theatre context in the UK and on the European continent. The project will thereby contribute to the growing body of English-language research and knowledge on European theatre practices. It will document, analyse, and make available to a wider public as well as for similar projects of trans-national theatre encounters the insight gained from Theatre of Europe's translation of existing non- English European theatre productions for a UK audience, with British theatre artists. At the same time, the student will gain added professional skills that will aid her prospects for a future career in academia, the theatre profession, or the wider cultural sector.
The student will be supported by the substantial academic expertise of the European Theatre Research Network, and she will work directly with Artistic Director and CEO of Theatre of Europe, Henriette Morrison. Her research will contribute to the engagement of the UK theatre community as well as of theatre audiences and of a wider public with Theatre of Europe's ongoing work, giving the student the opportunity to disseminate her work in various public settings. The findings of her doctoral research will therefore not only analyse an emerging trans-national European theatre aesthetics of the 21st century, and contribute to its public understanding, it will also offer crucial reflections on the artistic and pragmatic measures necessary to internationalise the careers of theatre artists in this context, which will be of interest across the British theatre sector, and beyond.


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Rowlands H (2017) Article in Theatre and Performance Design

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Rowlands, H (2019) Book Review in Theatre and Performance Design