The Relationship between Performance Space and Production of Shakespeare's Roman Plays

Examination Thesis, 2006
95 Pages, Grade: 2,0





2. 1SWAN THEATRE– ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA produced by Gregory Doran





I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this

empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed

for an act of theatre to be engaged ( Brook 1968, 11).

Peter Brook’s[1] beginning of the ‘Empty Space’ assumes that a theatre performance consists of three very basic components. According to Brook, performances are dependent on a space in which spectator and actor come together and agree on a place which they call stage. It is in this real space that actors and audience imagine a fictional world. Brook’s quotation, beautifully, encapusulates the simplicity of any theatre performance while it oversimplifies the complicated processes of bringing a play to life in the same breath. The empty space which Brook defines in his work is not realistic. It rather symbolizes his personal need to liberate his artistic talent from the fixed and institutionalized British theatre venues of the 1960’s.

In fact, for the majority of modern theatre performances, it is the theatre building which provides the space for all three basic parts. Although, it is true that no more than an empty space is needed for staging a play, during the last centuries the majority of performances have been sheltered by purpose built theatres. Most theatres provide a stage in the form of a proscenium stage, thrust stage or stage in the round. How a spectator looks at the actors performing on this stage differs, depending on the charcteristics of each theatre venue. A space in the theatre, may it be empty or filled, connects the two most important parts of any theatrical event, the audience and the actors. The relationship between these two groups is important for every performance as they imagine a fictional world, together, this forms the thrill and pleasure of theatrical events. Space in the theatre is, therefore, crucial for every performance.

The Elizabethan times mark the most influential period for modern theatre. Closely intertwined with the world’s most famous playwright, William Shakespeare, it is in this time that the first modern theatres were erected. Therfore, Shakespeare’s times and works are always closely connected with practices of today’s theatre.

The aim of this study is to research the relationship between the performance space of specific theatres and production of Shakespeare’s Roman plays in Great Britain, in 2006. It will be discovered to what extent performance space can influence production of Shakespeare’s Roman plays. Likewise, it will be examined how different productions make use of performance space. The question of which performance space works best for staging Shakespeare’s Roman plays in 2006 forms the basis of this case study.

For the last century there has been a vivid discussion in Britain, among scholars and theatre practioneers alike, about the importance of theatre architecture for Shakespeare’s plays. A discussion which is still very present in the British theatre scene, as the Royal Shakespeare Companies decision for a large-scale transformation project in May 2006 revealed. The heart of the project is the transformation of Royal Shakespeare Theatre to a 1.000 seat thrust stage auditorium. Two different aims in the discussion mentioned above could be observed from the 1960’s. A need was seen for a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Globe theatre and a construction of theatres which improve the relationship between actors and audience. Both of these aims could be realized in Britain from the mid 1980’s to the present. The best known examples are the Swan theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside.

There has been intensive research (Kiernan) and discussion about the relationship of the Globe’s rebuilt performance space and comedy in the first seasons at the Globe. In contrast, this study is restricted to tragedy, namely Shakespeare’s Roman Plays and the theatre season of 2006. Current trends and problems of staging the Roman Plays in different venues in 2006 will be discovered. An attempt will be made to point out that the plays Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra all demand a specific kind of performance space in order to communicate the full meaning which Shakespeare intended when writing the plays.

The research presented in this study is based on a case study which was carried out in the summer of 2006. Similarities in the artistic programe of the RSC and Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside opened up the unique opportunity to view and analyze productions of all four Roman Plays. As far as the writer of this study knows, the last opportunity to see all Roman plays in large-scale productions in Great Britain during one season dates back to the RSC’s Roman season in 1972. Productions in 2006 were viewed at the Swan Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford –upon- Avon and Shakespeare’s Globe Bankside, London. In the course of the study each performance/production was analysed in relation to the theatre’s performance space.

The RSC is currently realizing the companies most ambitious project in its history, the staging of all Shakespeare’s plays by April 2007 under the name of the Complete Works Festival. For this purpose the RSC has invited several international classical theatre companies and producers to contribute to this festival. At Stratford –upon- Avon it was possible to see two of the three RSC productions and one Japanese production. Shakespeare’s Globe Bankside named its 10th season the Edges of Rome. Three productions of the Roman plays were staged at the Globe during the 2006 season.

At the time the case study was carried out the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) was restricted to the RST and the Swan theatre, due to the transformation project mentioned above. The Other Place is currently used for audience facilities as it is in close proximity to the prototype of the new RST, the Courtyard Theatre, which opened in July 2006. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a large proscenium stage theatre, which has been the RSC’s main house for over the last seven decades. The performance space of the RST has been widely criticized over the years. Nevertheless, it is the RSC’s main house in which some of the companies greatest productions were staged. The Swan is a more intimate place with a thrust stage, mirroring the style of an Elizabethan playhouse. In contrast to the RST the Swan theatre has gained special favour both with actors and theatre-goers alike. The third venue, Shakespeare’s Globe Bankside, is a rebuilt Elizabethan public playhouse. The reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe has been the most thrilling and ambitious project in Shakespeare studies during the 1980’s and 90’s. Galleried seating on three levels, the yard for ‘groundlings’ and the thrust stage form the most important part of a complex which leaves spectators with a thrilling experience of having experienced Shakespeare’s ‘original’ theatre practices.

The descision to analyse the Roman plays was however only partly influenced by the unique opportunity to see all four Roman plays in 2006. The Roman plays indicate a life long interest of William Shakespeare for the state of Rome. Being written at three different stages of Shakespeare’s life, three different styles of writing can be identified. Unlike the histories, it should be admitted, the Roman plays do not form a coherent whole. Adopting the thought of Trevor Nunn when interviewed about the Roman Season in 1972, it is believed that the greatest connection between them is no more than the politics of Rome at four different crises (Tierney 1972, 26). The plays mirror Rome as a city-state (Coriolanus), Republic (Julius Caesar), Empire (Antony and Cleopatra) and a decaying civilization (Titus Andronicus). Most influential in the decision to research the Roman plays is the belief that each of the four plays demands a specific kind of performance space when produced.

Titus Andronicus was one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, probably first staged in 1594 in the Rose theatre. Although, Titus Andronicus was very successful in the 1590’s, it has often been described as unstagable from the 18th to 20th century. Only very recently has the play been rediscovered as a challenge for both actors and directors. The plays violence and horror confronts theatre practioneers and audiences with the raw immediacy of theatre like no other of Shakespeare’s plays. The first account of Julius Caesar dates back to 1599, the famous observation of Thomas Platter is likely to describe a staging at the newly built Globe I . Julius Caesar has been a popular play both in scholarly research and has been staged throughout the centuries. For many years the play has been a part of school’s syllabus in anglophone countries. Julius Caesar is considered as highly political and rich in public oratory. Both form an important part of the interpretation and staging of this play. Shakespeare ended his career with two tragedies, one of them is Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07). The play combines its political theme with a great love story. The geographical extension of the plays politics is mirrored in the various scene changes throughout the action. Shakespeare’s last tragedy is Coriolanus (1607-08). Often described as his most political play, the play is overtly questioning the right form of government. Like in Julius Caesar, public oratory and the representation of the discrepancy between plebians and aristocracy challenges today’s producers.

Chapter one will begin with a theoretical examination of the term performance space. The first part of this chapter will discuss the relationship between space in the theatre and philosophy. The influence of René Descartes theory of the Cartesian view of mind for the proscenium theatre will be emphasized. Likewise, a specified definition of the Cartesian view of mind by a postmodernist philosopher will be discussed. Moreover, the challenging thoughts on this model by two eminent post-modernist philosophers will be presented. Having looked at the philosophical thought invested in theatre space, the second part will deal with the research of theatre semiotics in the 1970’s. The taxonomies of two leading figures in theatre semiotics, Anne Ubersfeld and Patrice Pavis, are introduced. An attempt will be made to point out the importance of the Paris school of theatre semiotics for the development of the term performance space. The third part of the chapter introduces a more recent taxonomy, by a researcher who is not connected to theatre semiotics. The devision of space in the theatre in five different areas will be presented. As there is no shared terminology for the spatial function of theatre, a taxonomy specified for this study will be developed. Part four introduces the taxonomy developed for the case study at hand.

A major innovation of this taxonomy will be an emphasis on the notion of performance space. The notion of performance space will include both fiction and reality.

Having looked in general terms at the definition of performance space, the second chapter discusses the findings made in the case study of Shakespeare’s Roman Plays produced in 2006. Chapter two is subdivided into three individual sections. Each section is dedicated to one theatre and discusses the use of the performance space in the viewed performances of each production. In the beginning, the methodology applied in the case study will be outlined. The study’s approach of performance analysis will be introduced. Materials and sources used to document the viewed performances are listed.

The performance space of the Swan Theatre in relation to a production of Antony and Cleopatra by the RSC will be discussed in the first part of chapter two. First, the history of the Swan theatre will be outlined. In the following, the architecture of auditorium and stage will be described. The second section concentrates on the actor/audience relationship in the Swan theatre. It is the intimacy of the relatively small performance environment that impacts upon performances in the Swan, with the actor and audience sharing the same space. The importance of using the height of the Swan will be examplified by an analysis of scenes in the production. It is also a different style of acting which is required in the smaller auditorium, as actors must negotiate not only with an audience on three-sides, but also with the verticality and the space above the stage. The third section will discuss the use of technical possibilities in the production of Antony and Cleopatra. It will be highlighted that one of the most important characteristics of the Swan theatre is its bare stage. Finally, it will be pointed out that the use of scenography can value both, the Swan and Shakespeare’s word imagery.

The second part of chapter two will deal with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and two productions in its 2006 season, Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus. In the first section an overview about the RST’s history will be given. The RSC’s beginnings at Stratford –upon-Avon will be discussed and an account of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and the newly built Memorial Theatre (later RST) of 1932 will be given. Furthermore, the section will give some insight into the later RST’s architecture and technology. Section two of the second part will focus on the difficulties associated with the RST’s performance space. Critical responses on the RST’s performance space in form of statements and facts are collected at first. The importance of a good relationship between actor and audience for staging political plays such as Julius Caesar will be highlighted. In the following, the RSC’s 2006 production of Julius Caesar examplifies an attempt which aims to create a good relation between the two groups by not restricting itself behind the proscenium arch. The positive and negative aspects of using a stage extension which thrusts out into the audience space and an emphasis on playing on the forestage will be discussed by looking at specific scenes in the production of Julius Caesar. A discussion will show the limits of the actor/audience relationship of both, the production and the physical nature of the RST. In the third section of part two an attempt will be made to show the advantages of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s performance space for productions which emphasize the use of scenery. Before highlighting these advantages with the help of a Japanese production of Titus Andronicus in 2006, two of the most influential theatre design styles for present Shakespeare productions will be introduced. For this purpose important productions in the time of Pictorialism and Elizabethanism in the 19th century will be discussed. Furthermore, this centuries phenomenon of directors theatre will be discussed with special emphasis on the RSC. In the following, the Japanese director’s career and intentions are highlighted. The neutrality and size of the RSC’s performance space is one of its greatest advantages, the use of this charcteristic is examplified by scenery in the Japanese Titus Andronicus. Finally, it will be shown that the theatre’s size and use of elaborate scenery is not always connected with bad sightlines.

The final part of chapter two will conclude with Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside and three productions of its 2006 season. At first, an account will be given about the theatre scene in 16/17th century London. The different stages of theatre building in London will be presented. The use of historical evidence and research which enabled the Globe Trust to rebuild a detailed version of the Globe will be introduced. A short time line of the rebuilding project will be given thereafter. Finally, the Globe III’s most important charcteristics and architecture will be presented. The second section will discuss the actor/audience relationship which is redefined by production at the Globe III in 2006. The effects of acting in a daylight space at the Globe III will be discussed. In two productions of the 2006 season, the pit is included as another space for acting. An account of how the yard was used in former productions will be given. The 2006 season is unusual in that the yard was not only used frequently, but was remodelled for the purposes of each production. The use of stage extensions will be linked to the political theme in Coriolanus. Furthermore, it will be shown that the transformation of the performance space is linked with an active role during performances for the audience in the yard. The role of the audience in the production of Coriolanus will be examplified by a discussion of specific scenes. Problems that developed in past production with the behaviour of the ‘groundlings’ will be explained and discussed in relation to the 2006 Coriolanus. The innovations of the performance space brought in by the production of Titus Andronicus will be listed. Furthermore, it will be shown that two of the character’s different attitudes towards the plebians is communicated through the use of metal gantries. Finally, the connection between the remodelled performance space, audience members fainting, and the most violent scene in Titus Andronicus will be discussed.

The last section of chapter two will discuss the controversey between stage designers intentions and an authentic way of staging Shakespeare’s plays. The contribution of the Globe’s authentic performance space to the scholary discussion of Shakespeare’s original realization of specific scenes will be examplified by scenes in production of Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. In contrast, the scenographic innovations introduced to the Globe made by the production of Titus Andronicus are presented. The unlikeliness of such an elaborate design in Shakespeare’s days will be explained . Finally, the purpose of introducing scenery to change the light in the Globe III will be elaborated on. In the end, a conclusion will be formulated.



The beginnings of a modern discussion about space in relation to theatre can be traced back to the philosophical work of René Descartes (1596-1650). Descartes, the founding father of modern philosophy, claimed that all previous speculation had to be suspended, until clear measures could be established against which to measure all assumptions ( Scruton 2002, 29 ). Descartes was the founder and leading figure of the later philosophical branch of Rationalism, the philosophical doctrine that acclaims that the truth can best be discovered by factual analysis. Moreover, the Cartesian view of the mind was also initiated and developed by Descartes, which identifies the mind with consiousness and self-awareness to distinguish it from the brain ( Scruton 2002, 39). Descartes proposed various hypotheses about how the mental thing would interact with the body. He assumed that there must be a single place in the brain where all information comes together, he identified the pinal gland in the middle of the brain to serve this purpose. The American philosopher Daniel Dennett expanded this theory to the Cartesian Theatre in the 1990’s. Dennett argues that one should imagine a tiny theatre in the brain, where the homunculus observes all sensory information and makes decisions thereafter ( Dennett 1991, 107).

Considering these metaphysic thoughts innitiated by Descartes, Wiles argues convincingly that the Cartesian theatre, innitated by Decartes and expanded by Dennett, led to the development of a theatre in which the spectator is passive (2003, 7). Wiles assumes that when the ego is looking at the action through the cornea which funnels the sight, this influenced the theatre. Because of the development of the Cartesian theory in the 17th century, the actor was now restriced to a frame. The prototype of this kind of restriction would be the proscenium theatre. Furthermore, Wiles assumes that when the performed action has the quality of a dream, this is on behalf of Descartes philosophy. Finally, Wiles names the devison of actor and passive spectator as Cartesian theatrical dichotomy (2003, 7).

The Cartesian theatrical dichotomy has been challenged by two eminent philosophical figures of post – modernist philosophy, Michael Foucault and Henri Lefebvre (Wiles 2003, 8-11). Foucault introduced a tripartite history of space in 1967. Wiles converts Foucault’s concept of space to a history of theatrical performance. He describes the times before the Renaissance, as the space of emplacement. At that time, performances took place in venues which were a permanent part in people’s lives, such as a high-street. During the period of extension, during and after the Renaissance, theatres could be built in a convenient place. In the revolutionary years of the late 1960’s the theatre was linked with other spaces in society (Wiles 2003, 8).

Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1976) criticises the Cartesian Metaphysics similarly compared to Foucault’s work. The core of his work is the principle that “(Social) space is a (social) product” (Lefebvre 1991, 26). Lefebvre challenges Cartesian metaphysics in that he says that each society always fills a space:

Vis-à-vis lived experience, space is neither a mere ‘frame’, after the fashion of the frame of a painting, nor a form or container of a virtually neutral kind, designed simply to receive whatever is poured into it. Space is social morphology: it is to lived experience what form itself is to the living organism…(Lefebvre 1991, 93-94)

Both Foucault and Lefebvre challenge the Cartesian model because it leaves out the social component of theatrical performance. Richard Schechner, a leading performance studies researcher in the U.S., points out that three primary transactions construct the theatrical event: (1) between performers, (2) between audience members, (3) between performers and audience (Wiles 2003, 3). Schechner along with Lefebvre and Foucault believes that space in the theatre is to be found in the relationship between spectator and performer.


Another influential school which greatly contributed to the understanding of performance space is theatre semiotics. Theatre semiotics, unlike the thought of Lefebvre and Foucault, accepts the Cartesian dichotomy. In this approach, the spectator is assumed to translate the stage action into signs, and takes a rather passive role. In general, the aim of semiotics is to explain how phenomena in the world are related to meaning by humanity (Carlson 1989, 3). Theatre semiotics attempted to analyse the theatre performance by identifying the minimal units of a performance (Pavis 1998, 254). Although theatre semiotics accepts a passiveness of the audience, the account of performance space, which theatre semiotics developed, is of great importance and cannot be left out of any theoretical discussion of performance space.

Anne Ubersfeld is one of the leading figures in theatre semiotics. Ubersfeld’s works point out the centrality of space for the theatrical communication. In L’Ecole du spectateur Ubersfeld states: “The theatre is space” (1981, 80). Ubersfeld was the first reseacher in the field of theatre semiotics to come up with a taxonomy for theatre space, related to her theory of spatial function ( McAuley 2000, 18). Ubersfeld created five terms to devide the space in the theatre: stage space, scenic place, theatrical space, theatre space and dramatic space. Theatre space is described as a straight forward notion of the stage, the area were actors perform. The scenic space is identified as more complex, it is the fictional place ( for example: Rome in Antony and Cleopatra) and the social space which a group of people experiences. The third term, theatrical space, describes the whole complex function of space in the theatre: “We can define theatre as a particular mode of spatial organization” ( Ubersfeld 1981, 75). Theatre space is more specific, refering to the place of performance and the division of audience and spectator. The fifth part of the taxonomy is the notion of dramatic space, Ubersfeld argues that this space consists of both textual and performance signs, which are read differently by reader and spectator of the play. The notion includes even more than the fictional place and social reality, as it includes all the dramatic actions of a performace in relation to space (McAuley 2000, 18-19).

Another important name in the field of theatre semiotics is Patrice Pavis. His name is, as Uberfeld’s, closely intertwined with the Paris school of theatre semiotics. Although Pavis states that to “ define all of the spaces involved is a vain and hopeless undertaking” (1998, 344). In a recent publication Pavis describes six different notions of space in the theatre. Pavis’s taxonomy includes: dramatic space, stage space, theatre space, gestural space, textual space and inner space (1998, 344-345) Dramatic space is described as the space which the reader/spectator needs to fictionalize. Stage space is synonymous to Ubersfeld’s term, and describes the actual space of the actor. Theatre space is defined as the space occupied by the audience and actors and the relationship between the two. Moreover, Pavis believes that all the other notions of his taxonomy are included in theatre space. Gestural space is created by the actors, their relationship to each other and the stage arrangement. Textual space is defined as containing the actors’ speeches and stage directions. The sixth notion, is Inner space, a space used to symbolize the dream of a character in the play ( Pavis 1998, 344-345).

Many more approaches of theatre semioticians and praticioners like Jansen (1973, 1982), Souriau (1950) and Issacharoff (1989) and others all attempted to define space for performance. In a more recent approach Gay Mc Auley is convinced that all of them are trying to describe the “central fact of theatrical semiosis, the complex interplay between the physical and the fictional, and the meanings that emerge from this interplay” (2000, 20). However, McAuley points out that there is no shared terminology for the spatial function in theatre studies and that the different use of vocabulary can in fact be described as a ‘terminological minefield’. Although the importance of space has been recognized by theatre semiotics from the 1970’s onwards, she assumes that it is necessary for any practioner and researcher to develop his own terminology (Mc Auley 2000, 17).


Mc Auley developed her terminological field called “ the taxonomy of spatial function in the theatre” (2000, 25). It devides space in the theatre into five different areas. The first area is called ‘Social Reality’, this area includes the terms theatre space, audience space, practioners space, performance space and rehearsal space. Theatre space includes the building itself and its relation to other buildings, its history, the access it invites or refuses. The theatre space includes both the audience space and the practioners space. Mc Auley describes that the audience space is the space in which the spectators experience a social event, the foyer, corridors, bars and most important the auditorium. The practioners inhabit the backstage, including the dressing rooms etc. (2000, 26). The two spaces of practioners space and audience space are than merged again in the notion of performance space. Performance space , according to Mc Auley’s taxonomy, only includes the social reality of the theatre. It describes the coming together of audience and spectators in one space to experience a performance. The last space of this area is the rehearsal space, which often differs from the performance space ( Mc Auley 2000, 24-27).

The second major area is called ‘ The Physical/Fictional Relationship ’. This area aims to categorize the difficult physical/fictional relationship which has already been hinted at in the outline of Ubersfeld’s approach (scenic place). In the theatre there is always a duality of physical reality, the performance space, and the fictional world which is being created (Mc Auley 2000, 27). The stage space includes the stage with the particular characteristics of different theatres, width-depth, degree of seperation or integration with the auditorium, exits, division of on-offstage. Moreover, the stage space can be single or multiple when the action takes place on different stages within the performance space. The second, presentational space, is the use of the stage space in different performances. Mc Auley identifies the scenic space by

Ubersfeld as too restrictive in its nature and includes more than just scenery:

…in many productions there is little or no scenery, yet the mere physical presence of actors on a bare stage transforms it into presentational space.

The notion must be seen to include the actual physical occupation of the

stage space by the actors as well as the set ( if any ), its furniture and props,

the spatial demarcation established by the lighting, the number, nature and position of the exits, and the way the offstage areas are signaled physically.

( McAuley 2000, 29).

The final term in the Physical/Fictional Relationship is the term Fictional Space. Fictional Space describes the place or several places which are presented in the performance of the play. Mc Auley gives this notion so much importance that she opens up a third area ( 2000, 30-32).

The third area of the taxonomy is called ‘Location and Fiction’. The major distinction in this area is a separation of onstage and offstage. The onstage fictional place can be represented by the actor, either through gestures or speech. Or the onstage fictional space is created by the presentational space and can be single or multiple ( McAuley 2000, 30). The second category is called the offstage physical place. Mc Auley introduces four subcategories for this category, which are all related to the physical reality of the theatre (Presentational Space, Stage Space and Audience Space). Unlocalized off in relation to Performance Space describes the places which are not physically related to the performance, this can be a gesture or a look (Mc Auley 2000, 31). The Localized off in relation to Performance Space is part of reality as it is related to the onstage. A door, window or hole may give a glimpse or association with a distant fictional place. Localized off in relation to Performance Space includes the subcategory Audience Off. In some productions and playtexts the audience space is related to offstage fictional places ( Mc Auley 2000, 31).

The next two categories do not contribute to a definition of performance space and are therfore only mentioned as a matter of coherence. The fouth area is ‘Textual Space’ it contains both didascalia and dialogue. The nature of the ‘Textual Space’ can, however, be described as interdependent with all the other areas. The final area is called ‘Thematic Space’, which has a globalizing effect incorporating both text and performance ( Mc Auley 2000, 33)

1. 4. TAXONOMY OF PERFORMANCE SPACE for a study of Shakespeare’s Roman Plays

produced in 2006

The notion of Performance Space in this study is defined and applied differently compared to the understanding of Mc Auley and the school of theatre semiotics. Performance Space can be identified to have a dual character. It is related to the notion of Performance and Space simultaneously. The aim and nature of any performance of Shakespeare’s plays is to create a fictional space or place. The performance is, however, always bound to the space of the particular theatre, the physical reality where the staging is taking place. The nature of Performance Space is therefore always related to the fictional and physical reality. Performance Space reflects the immediacy of a theatre performance in a particular space, with its own significant characteristics, inhabited by actors and spectators. The taxonomy for this study is therefore built around the notion of Performance Space, and includes both the fictional and physical characteristic of theatre, see figure 1.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1 . Taxonomy of Performance Space for ‘The Relationship

between Performance Space and Production of Shakespeare’s

Roman Plays.

Performance Space and Production influence each other significantly. From the side of the creative team, choices are made months before the first performance. Decisions must be made, for example which theatre to play in (if there is a choice) or what kind on scenery is to be designed. Likewise, the nature of the physical space of Performance Space influences the choices made by the creative team.

In this study all Performance Spaces include a Theatre Space, they are staged within the boundaries of the three theatres ( Globe, RST and Swan). All three theatres have their own characteristics like size, architecture, relation to other buildings, place of a theatre in an urban setting and audience space which can be called Theatre Space. Theatre space is, however, not necessarily related to the performance of a play, as theoretically the space could be used for other purposes. The coming together of audience and actor in one space is the most basic component of an act of theatre. The social merger of the actors and audience can be experienced in various ways triggered through the Audience/Actor Space. The connection which needs to be established between actors and audience is influenced by the physical space provided. For example, the seating arrangement may invite to establish this connection or not. On the one hand, the Audience/Actor Space is part of our physical reality, on the other hand as soon as the fictional component of a production comes into play, it is not. Theatre Space and Audience/Actor Space are situated between fiction and reality.

Performance Space for drama always includes a Fictional Space and a Physical Space. The Fictional Space/Place created is influenced by the physical reality of the theatre including the Theatre Space the Audience/Actor Space, Stage Space and creation of Scenic Space. The devision of Fictional Space/Place introduced by McAuley (2000, 30) is fully applied in this taxonomy. The Physical Space includes the notion of Stage Space which is seperated from the term Theatre Space. The Stage Space differs from venue to venue in width, length, the position of exits, nature of the back wall and it can even be multiple (different stages in one Performance Space). The Stage Space can be used in different ways in any given performance. The use of the Stage Space is called Scenic Space. Although the scenery of a production may not be necessary, for most productions it offers immense creative possibilites. This notion includes the occupation of the stage by actors, furniture, decoration, lighting, use of exits. The notion of Scenic Space also includes the movement by the actors and therfore the category once again slips from the physical to the fictional.

It is important to note that all the different categories which have been included in this taxonomy are all interconnected with each other. The essence of this taxonomy is that it includes fiction and physical reality. Although, not each category will be discussed individually. Every category contributes to a better understanding of the notion performance space for this study.



The following chapters of the study aim to combine the characteristic features of the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon – Avon and Shakespeare’s Globe Bankside, London with a discussion of how different productions of Shakespeare’s Roman Plays work in these spaces. Each space and each production has its own distinct character. Overall, nine performances were attended in the spring and summer of 2006, as some productions were viewed twice. The observation and analysis follows no set conventions, such as a questionaire introduced by Patrice Pavis for theatre semiotics (1985, 208-212). In the light of the work and the suggestions of Christopher Balme (1999, 96), no particular approach of performance analysis is followed. Various tools suitable for the analysis of performance space are used. The analytical tools are, unfortunately, limited. Video recording or picture taking during performances is strictly forbidden in all three theatres, and is enforced by dedicated stewards. Nevertheless, it was possible to take pictures before and after the plays as well as during the interval. Pictures show the producers use of the performance space and highlight special equipment which was used during the performance. Note taking during the performance proved to be the vital tool of this analysis. Reviews in national British newspapers, programmes and interviews form another part of sources in the study. Newspaper reviews give the impressions of professional reviewers and sometimes emphasize an observation made by the writer of this study. Although, the emphasis of these articles was not by any means performance space. The RSC’s programme of public events in conjunction with the Complete Works Festival greatly contributed to this study. Creative Team Talks, Workshops and Shakespeare’s Birthday Weekend gave some insight in the productions straight out of the rehearsal room and made it possible to talk to theatre practioneers. On two occassions it was possible to interview a producer, Sean Holmes, and an actor, Ariyon Bakare, about producing and working in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. A full account of these two interviews is provided in the appendix.


[1] Peter Brook – director of many ground breaking productions at the RSC before forming The International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris – RSC prod. included – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1971) and King Lear (1962)

Excerpt out of 95 pages


The Relationship between Performance Space and Production of Shakespeare's Roman Plays
University of Cologne  (Englisches Seminar )
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This case study takes a closer look at how productions of Shakespeare's Roman Plays (Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra)make use of different performance spaces. Five different productions of the spring and summer season, 2006 of the RSC, Stratford and Shakespeare's Globe, London are analysed in connection to this issue. A thorough analysis of the productions is combined with theory, theatre history and interviews.
Relationship, Performance, Space, Production, Shakespeare, Roman, Plays
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Philipp Reul (Author), 2006, The Relationship between Performance Space and Production of Shakespeare's Roman Plays, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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