Directors: Organisation, Authorship, and Social Production

Cornford, Tom (2022) Directors: Organisation, Authorship, and Social Production. In: The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre since 1945. Cambridge University Press. (In Press)


This chapter presents a history of directorial practice in the post-war British theatre to argue that directors have been able to assert their authority over the sector thanks to their operation at the intersections of art and finance, organisation and creativity. This analysis of the work of directing owes a great deal to Ric Knowles’ development of ‘materialist semiotics’, and to Stuart Hall’s readings of the politics of cultural production and reception. The chapter extends Knowles’ and Hall’s insights into theatre production through three parallel accounts of theatre directing in the post-war period. These focus on the managerial and administrative position of the Artistic Director (key examples include Michael Buffong, Stephen Daldry, Peter Hall, Paulette Randall); ‘auteur’ directors who create theatrical ‘performance texts’ (Joan Littlewood, Simon McBurney, Katie Mitchell, Emma Rice), and directors whose artistry is to be found in social production, the shaping of relations between people in public space (Geraldine Connor, Jenny Sealey, Lois Weaver). Through this analysis of a wide range of directorial practices, the chapter aims to concretise the multiple forces and interests that govern the theatre sector, and thereby expose the social relations that shape its creative practices, and the political interests that govern them.


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