"These signs forerun the death or fall of kings": renegotiating masculinities and centrality in Shakespeare's second tetralogy through adaptation, direction and performance

Turner-McMullan, C.J (2024) "These signs forerun the death or fall of kings": renegotiating masculinities and centrality in Shakespeare's second tetralogy through adaptation, direction and performance. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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‘Fall of Kings’, ‘Between the Armies’ and ‘The Breach’ were a series of adaptations that formed the practice-based elements of a project exploring and challenging contemporary representations of gendered power and repetitive narratives of hegemonic victory in post-1980’s performances of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy. ‘Fall of Kings’ is an adaptation of Richard II, staged at Burdall’s Yard, Bath in March 2018; ‘Between the Armies’ is adapted from Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 and performed at The Rondo Theatre, Bath in September 2018; and ‘The Breach’ is adapted from Henry V, performed at The Rondo Theatre, Bath in June 2019 before touring to The Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud and The Alma Tavern, Bristol in July 2019. The productions were developed by three professional companies, engaging public audiences through live performances in theatres across the South West. The adapting and directing practices employed to stage the productions are informed by a sociological analysis of the plays, drawing on a number of theoretical studies that consider performance, gender and power from sociological or sociologically attuned perspectives. Foremost of these is Raewyn Connell’s masculinities, which informed decisions on how the texts would be cut, edited and approached in performance. In conjunction with Catherine Silverstone’s consideration of how trauma may be sustained through performance, Connell’s framework is applied in the reflection and analysis of the project’s practical elements, contributing to knowledge of how gendered power is held and enacted through practice, and the implications this may have for performance and performers. With this progression towards a trauma-informed and actor-centred approach to direction, the project later incorporates James C. Scott’s observations of hidden speech and action from and within social margins, which outline ways power might be claimed through the rejection of hegemony. In bringing together these considerations in practice, guided by the overarching framework of Connell’s masculinities, the project seeks to explore how adaptation and direction might intervene to disrupt, relocate or alter dynamics of power in rehearsal and performance processes. Reflecting on the adaptation, direction and performance of ‘Fall of Kings’, ‘Between the Armies’ and ‘The Breach’, the study considers how these practices contributed to the disruption of narratives depicting gendered hegemony, complicity, subordination and marginality in the performance of the second tetralogy. Chapter 1 will introduce the approach to masculinities’ practical applications in ‘Fall of Kings’, exploring how the introduction of a Narrator in the textual adaptation, and the use of physical performance techniques informed by Connell’s concepts enabled a subversion of masculine-feminine dichotomies and gendered power. Chapter 2 will examine the ways the re-embodiment of selected characters in ‘Between the Armies’ affected a displacement of the play’s hegemonic masculinities and, in doing so, disrupted the representation of hegemonic victory in Henry IV Part 1 and 2. The chapter will discuss how Silverstone’s exploration of performance as a site in which trauma can be both represented and sustained informed the reflection on white and heteropatriarchal hegemonies in ‘Between the Armies’, onstage and in rehearsal. Continuing with this line of enquiry in relation to Scott’s concept of hidden transcripts of resistance, Chapter 3 considers how approaches to performing class and gender in ‘The Breach’ contributed to disrupting working-class and feminine marginality, guided by the use of directorial understandings of gender. Referring to the productions as they are documented in the appendices, the thesis draws conclusions on how adaptation and direction might disrupt the centrality of Shakespeare’s kings in the narratives and processes of working with the plays. In doing so, theatre and performance can intervene in the potentially violent functions of narrative, embodiment and performance context. Centrality may be refocused, remaining flexible and responsive to actor experiences of social power, feeling and identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The creative work referenced in the thesis text is available on BathSPAdata, the University's data repository, at the URL below.

Keywords: PhD by practice, Shakespeare, adaptation, practice-based research, practice research, theatrical production, theatrical performance, gender, power, hegemony, sociological analysis, sociological perspectives, trauma, actor-centred approach, theatre direction
Divisions: Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.17870/bathspa.00016214
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2024 09:56
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2024 10:42
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/16214
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