'The audience enjoyed the audience', a practice-as-research based investigation into space, proxemics, embodiment and illocution in relation to young people's reception of Shakespeare

Bell, Henry, PhD.

September 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 PhD Henry Bell. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This dissertation is the written component of a practice-as-research based investigation into the reception of Shakespeare’s writing by young people via performance-based methods. Participants in the research took part in a twofold process, firstly attending preparatory workshops utilising active storytelling and active Shakespeare approaches, before attending an abridged performance, which was performed in one of a number of in-the-round theatre spaces. The study explores the responses and behaviours of primary school aged children who attended Julius Caesar performed at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London and secondary school aged pupils who attended Romeo and Juliet at various locations in schools and a specifically constructed in-the-round auditorium in Hull and Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.
Firstly, this dissertation uses ideas stemming from Maurice Merleau Ponty’s existential phenomenology to describe the skills development of the participants in the preparatory workshops, before providing a wider phenomenological theoretical framework to justify and explain the practical deployment of aesthetic and architectural design choices in the research conducted. The spatial investigation is continued by applying Henri Lefebvre’s theories of space to explore how considerations of space can realign the position of Shakespeare’s writing within the hegemonies of the various youth cultures of which primary and secondary school age groups are a part. This framework is then used theoretically to analyse the theatre spaces in which research took place; the spatial dynamics of the audience and performance spaces found within theatre in-the-round are analysed using existing, contemporary audience reception theories alongside original research conducted with practitioners of this theatrical configuration. Finally, the treatment of illocutionary acts, both in the performances conducted as part of this dissertation, and in UK classrooms, by young people, are investigated via the concepts of J.L. Austin and John C. Searle’s Speech Act Theory, in order to provide a methodology appropriate for analysis of the linguistic behaviour of Shakespeare’s writing in performance.

Department of Drama, The University of Hull
Billing, Christian M.,1968-; Drábek, Pavel, 1974-
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