University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

'Producing the Scene': the Evolution of the Director in British Theatre 1900-50

Cochrane, Claire ORCID: (2015) 'Producing the Scene': the Evolution of the Director in British Theatre 1900-50. In: British Theatre and Performance 1900-1950. Critical Companions . Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, London, pp. 199-212. ISBN Paperback: 9781408165652 Hardback: 9781408174920

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The role of the director as the individual who harnesses and controls resources to shape the theatrical product to a personal artistic vision, begins to emerge in British theatre in the early years of the twentieth century. What distinguishes the role from that of the actor-manager who had led the profession since the seventeenth century, is that it separates off from the leading actor in performance. The power and authority of the director (or producer as he or she tended to be known initially) is exercised in the pre-performance stage. In the first half of the century there were still old-style actor-managers—Donald Wolfit is a prime example—and many of the new directors had begun their careers as actors and some continued to act their in their own productions. But the perception of the function of the director began to change radically. In part this was linked to the early attempts to create a new model of producing company or ‘repertory’ theatre which required a different set of administrative as well as artistic skills to tackle the challenge of a short-run system of multiple play production. This became especially important in the developing network of regional repertory theatres which were established as autonomous, locally-specific institutions predicated on policies opposed to the dominant commercial ethos. The best-known of the early directors, most notably H.Granville Barker, confined their radical experiments to short-lived metropolitan experiments, or, as in the case of Terence Gray and J.B.Fagan, operated within the influential Oxbridge nexus. Others such as H.K.Ayliff, Herbert Prentice, William Armstrong and William Bridges-Adams remain comparatively obscure because of their long-term ‘provincial’ connections or, as in the case of Nugent Monck and Edy Craig because their creativity was largely channelled through amateur actors. This chapter will explore the evolving role of the director as both a necessary functionary and an artistic innovator within the changing structures of British theatre.

Item Type: Book Section
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: British, theatre, directors, twentieth century
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
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Depositing User: Claire Cochrane
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2016 13:41
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:13

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