The leading scholar on private theatricals, Sybil Rosenfeld, argues in her book Temples of Thespis (1978) that the craze ‘reached its climax in the 1780s’ and by 1820 had ‘petered out’. My research will counter current orthodoxies to consider the profuse examples of theatricals in great houses across Britain after 1820, emphasising their social, cultural and theatrical importance and shedding light on what Dr Claire Cochrane argues to be a hugely neglected field.
My PhD will examine many forms of home theatricals and will explore both provincial (e.g. Stoneleigh Abbey) and city-based (e.g. Campden House) examples. I will study purpose built theatres (e.g. Craig-y-Nos Castle), arguing that their intimacy created innovative theatre environments. I will also study the under-researched area of family Drawing Room theatricals, which pushed gender norms by allowing informal interaction between the sexes.
I will also highlight the importance of theatricals in the social lives of the middle and upper classes in an age of rapid change through my research. I will raise questions about:
- the value of the widespread popularity of private theatricals
- the implications of female involvement in private theatricals
- the blurred binary of the public and private realm through private theatricals
- the relationship between provincial theatre and the London stage displayed in private theatricals
- the role of patronage by those who get-up private theatricals and its effect on the profession
- the effect private theatricals had upon professional theatres
- the place of private theatricals in social history
I will also research what I term high society ‘professional’ amateurs who habitually performed around the country but forever remianed as 'amateurs'.
Thus this PhD will analyse, evaluate and bring to attention the social and cultural significance of home theatricals and will open up the boundaries of theatre history to redefine the range of topics that can be explored
Prof. Jim Davis
Jim dot Davis at warwick dot ac dot uk
Dr. Margaret Shewring
M dot E dot Shewring at warwick dot ac dot uk