This dissertation argues that the investigation of innovative theatre that is performed in found space and adapted historic theatres would be invaluable for architects seeking to design successful theatres now and in the future. It aims to introduce subjects from both architectural and theatrical literature that should make up such a study.
Along the way, it is sobering to realise that writing a theatre brief is much harder than many architects assume, and that a badly-designed venue can have such a devastating effect that it can stop an otherwise successful theatrical production from connecting with its audience. Furthermore, one gets the exasperating impression that the goal posts are constantly moving, as the theatrical activity that is so inseparable from the vessel that holds it, is increasingly wide-ranging and constantly evolving.
At least it is agreed by all concerned that a dynamic living actor-audience interaction is central to the success of a theatrical experience, and that theatre architecture has a significant impact on this. Making a connection between the audience in the auditorium and the actor on stage is one of the things that the innovative practitioners considered in this dissertation are particularly interested in. In examining why these nonmainstream practitioners often prefer to work in found spaces, the issues which need to be addressed for all theatre spaces, including conventional ones, are brought into sharp focus.
Chapter One will briefly outline the state of theatre architecture in the world today, with a quick history of the last one hundred years or so for context. The topic of actor-audience- architecture interaction will also be summed up. This will lead to a description and discussion of the found spaces and adapted historic theatres favoured by so many innovative theatre practitioners, with some examples of each. A taxonomy of these spaces proposes that they form a continuum from the most purpose-built and permanent to the least purpose-built and permanent, beginning with permanently adapted historic theatres, through adapted found spaces like Brisbane’s Powerhouse Theatre, and ending with completely unmodified urban or rural places such as those in which street theatre is performed. It will be argued that a well chosen turn-of-the-twentieth-century historic theatre, when adapted as though it were a found space, has many advantages over more recent purpose-built theatres, or even other historic theatres that have been perfectly restored.
Chapter Two introduces the innovative practitioners in greater detail. What are they trying to achieve with their theatre practice that makes the actor-audience interactions so especially important? As this is an architectural dissertation, and it must not be assumed that the reader is familiar with theatrical activity, some of the ideas central to innovative theatre practice will be explained, and a brief historical context provided, again over the last one hundred or so years since the rise of the avant-garde.
Chapter Three brings together the elements introduced in the previous two chapters. What are the advantages these theatre practitioners gain from using found space and adapted historic theatres that other venues do not provide? The conclusion indicates what further research into this innovative theatre – found space / adapted historic theatres combination could provide, with a few suggestions for the form some investigations might take.