Theatre and Performance Design - A Reader in Scenography


Edited by Jane Collins and Andrew Nisbet published by Routledge in March 2010

‘This Reader is long overdue. It will prove to be an essential reference document for any student encountering scenography at an early stage of their careers’ - Simon Banham, University of Wales Aberyswyth.

Theatre and Performance Design is an essential resource for those interested in the visual composition of performance and related scenographic practices. Theatre and performance studies, cultural theory, fine art, philosophy and the social sciences are brought together in one volume to examine the principle forces that inform understanding of theatre and performance design.

This major collection of key writings provides a much needed critical and contextual framework for the analysis of theatre and performance design. By locating this study within the broader field of scenography – the term increasingly used to describe a more integrated reading of performance – this unique anthology recognises the role played by all the elements of production in the creation of meaning.

AHRC Funded Research:

‘White Spectatorship in Victorian Britain’

The African Choir 1891-1893

The African Choir in Victorian Dress 1891
From The 'Calling of Katie Makanya', Margaret McCord, David Philip, 1995 Cape Town.
Reproduced by kind permisiion of New Africa Books

This research draws on Dr Veit Erlmann’s illuminating article “Spectatorial Lust’ in Africans on Stage and my own experience of co-directing and touring ‘Mamma Nalukalala N’dezze Lye’ Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht, to America and South Africa in the 1990’s.

It makes links between the reception of work from Africa in the 19th century and current readings of African work in Europe and America.

The questions it raises are:

• Whether the demands of ‘exportability’ will mean that what comes out of the African continent must increase the appeal to western preconceptions and fantasies?

• Is African performance and specifically black African performance being packaged for western consumption?

I visited South Africa to conduct research during July 2005 and in the summer 2006.

‘The Story of the African Choir,’ was presented at the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg on Friday April 7th 2006 as a workshop performance to an invited audience. The workshop was funded by the A.H.R.C. and Wimbledon College of Art. A full production of the work was staged at the Grahamstown International Arts Festival in South Africa in July 2007.

Programme notes that accompanied the workshop presentation in Johannesburg

Between 1891-1893 a group of young black South Africans toured England, Scotland and Ireland. They were a Christian choir apparently on a mission to raise funds for a technical school in Kimberley however, once in England, a more complex set of motives for the trip emerged. On the tour they struggled to come to terms with the realities of late Victorian Industrial Society which challenged their notions of progress and made them question their own identity as the black educated elite.

The tour failed to make money and as a result they were forced to take radical measures to attract larger audiences. It all ended in disaster with the choir abandoned by their managers and left penniless in a London hotel.

The African Choir Review of Reviews 1891
Reproduced by kind permission of New Africa Books

One of their members was the young Charlotte Manye, who eventually went on to found the Bantu Women’s League and became a prominent activist for women’s rights in South Africa. Later in her life she also campaigned vehemently for women to be represented in the newly formed African National Congress.

Charlotte Manye
Reproduced by kind permission of Ntongela Masilela

Kholosa Tshandana as Charlotte Manye
Photograph by Michael Pavelka 2006

An article on the project - Umuntu, Ngumuntu, Ngabantu; The Story of the African Choir, Performing Identities in Victorian Britain appeared in Studies in Theatre and Performance in 2007 - Vol 27.2 ISSN 1468-2761 Intellect Books.

Stages Calling

In March 2007 ‘Stages Calling’ at the National Theatre in collaboration with Michael Pavelka and the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, an Exhibition of the production photographs of Ruphin Coudyzer to celebrate 30 years of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. A discussion forum ‘Agendas’ with John Kani was hosted by Jane Collins

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Last updated March 2007