Playing with materials

Performing effect on the indoor Jacobean stage

Authored by: Jane Collins

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:


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The opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London in January 2014, designed to “invoke a version of the indoor playhouse Shakespeare’s company occupied from 1609 to 1642” (Gurr and Karim-Cooper 2014: 1), has inspired Early Modern theatre scholars and historians to not only revisit the plays performed indoors during the winter months but also reconsider the social, economic, and material conditions of their production. Until recently, studies of Early Modern drama have primarily focused on these plays from a literary perspective or, when considering them in performance, discussions of acting styles, costume, and architecture have in the main concentrated on the larger outdoor amphitheatres such as The Globe. This renewed interest in the staging of Jacobean and Caroline plays in the more intimate environment of the indoor playhouses has shifted the focus away from what had been generally accepted as “an actor’s and playwright’s theatre” (Sturgess 1987: 37) towards a more nuanced understanding of the actor as just one component in a complex matrix of elements that constitute the performance event, as well as re-thinking the notion of a single authorial vision. Thus the emphasis of scholarly attention expands from actor presence and authorial intent to embrace wider considerations of the spatial, visual, acoustic and olfactory conditions that pertained in the indoor playhouses, as well as the social status and expectations of the audiences who attended performances there; in effect a “turn” towards scenography.

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