Sadler's Wells image

Funded by the AHRC, this collaborative research project examines theatre spectacle and spectatorship in the long nineteenth century by considering it as a significant and integrated part of visual culture. It brings together Jim Davis, Kate Newey, Pat Smyth and Kate Holmes from the University of Warwick Theatre & Performance Studies and University of Exeter Drama departments.

Our focus is on how the nineteenth century ushered in a revolution in the way people looked and were looked at and how theatrical spectacle was both a facet and reflection of modernity in Britain (with France providing a comparative study). By looking at the interactions between staging, new technologies, and the visual arts we want to consider:

  • how spectacle and scenography contributed to the action of a production, rather than functioning as a static pictorial background;
  • the ways in which familiar pictorial images took on new meanings on stage;
  • the agency of spectators in actively interpreting the meanings produced by stage spectacle;
  • how pre-naturalist staging can be seen as innovative and experimental; and,
  • nineteenth-century illusionism in relation to changing definitions of the ‘real’.

Running from 2018-21, we will be organising conferences, exhibitions and public engagement activities, working with partners at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Bristol Theatre Collection and Promenade Promotions.

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Picture Credit: Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rowlandson & Pugin, aquatinted by Bluck, published by Ackermann, 1809, V&A Theatre and Performance Archive.