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UAL Research Online

Narratives of Continuity & Change: British Theatre Design 1945-2003, An Oral History

Wright, Elizabeth (2009) Narratives of Continuity & Change: British Theatre Design 1945-2003, An Oral History. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Wright, Elizabeth

This thesis contends that continuity is evident within British theatre design practice across the second half of the twentieth century despite the concurrent emergence of new performance spaces and revolutionary approaches to theatre making. During this period, British practitioners have been internationally commended for the standard of their work at the Prague Quadrennial, yet access to knowledge about the practice which has realised this success is limited: the individual approaches of theatre designers are largely undocumented and a critical discourse of theatre design has not been firmly established.

Themes of continuity and change within British theatre design 1945 - 2003 are examined on the basis of evidence from 23 in-depth oral history life story recordings created with a representative sample of theatre design practitioners. These are analysed in combination with three existing life stories available at the British Library Sound Archive to encompass almost half a century of practice. The recordings uncover a rich web of otherwise undocumented knowledge and reveal threads of commonality across generations of the profession, tracking influences and shared values across the period. The relatively isolated nature of practice, which seldom brings theatre designers into contact with one another, is shown to add especial emphasis and importance to the influence of established practitioners during education and training.

The lack of critical discourse and the inaccessibility of theatre designers' own reflections on practice is understood to have contributed to a situation in which attitudes and approaches remain largely unchallenged from one generation of the profession to the next. Oral history life story methodology offers an appropriate means to capture knowledge that exists otherwise only in an ephemeral form, redressing to some extent the scarcity of reflective analysis emerging from practitioners. The recordings created for this research have been preserved and made publicly accessible at the British Library Sound Archive, providing a resource for future research.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

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Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Wimbledon College of Arts
Date: August 2009
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 10:56
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2024 15:48
Item ID: 15587
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/15587

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