- Moving Shakespeare Indoors: Performance and Repertoire in the Jacobean Playhouse ed. by Andrew Gurr and Farah Karim-Cooper
What does it mean for a theater company previously based at an outdoor playing venue to gain access to an indoor theater as a regular space to play? How might new plays take advantage of the company’s two performance spaces, and how might the existing repertory adapt to the newer space? What evidence would help us to answer these questions, and how could that evidence be used if we wanted to construct a modern space, such as the Sam Wanamaker playhouse, informed by the practice and theory of early modern architecture? In what way would performance and its reception be affected by the differences of indoor playing? What might those key differences be: a smaller auditorium, a higher pricing bracket, a house orchestra, artificial lighting and its implications for manipulating point of view, an audience more able to indulge in expensive and more perishable kinds of clothing and jewelry? Such questions animate this volume, in which each contribution offers ways to think about indoor playing, particularly at the Second Blackfriars.
It is a pleasure to welcome a book exploring the materiality of performance in indoor playhouses. As will become clear, I am puzzled by the way time periods and theatrical innovation are theorized in this book, but Andrew Gurr and Farah Karim-Cooper have assembled a fine team of contributors who offer creative ways to respond to the methodological challenges posed by the range, blindspots, and lacunae of archival and architectural evidence. The book is organized in three sections: on evidence, materiality, and the notion of fashion(s). In the first section, John Astington considers the evidence of theater history to contextualize the residency of the King’s Men at the Blackfriars (variously dated in this book as beginning in 1608, 1609, or 1610), whilst the architect Jon Greenfield and timber craftsman Peter McCurdy set out the evidence for Jacobean construction technology and the potential methodologies for employing such evidence when building archetypal reconstructions (the editors’ preferred term for the Sam Wanamaker playhouse). Greenfield and McCurdy’s chapter leads nicely into Oliver Jones’s, which uses the Blackfriars repertories, alongside other Jacobean playhouses and other kinds of buildings more generally, to rethink the available evidence for the way playhouses were constructed and decorated. Finally, in this section, Mariko Ichikawa considers the relationship between the Blackfriars playing space and dramaturgical options (and non-options) coded into plays performed there.
The second part of the book, on the material conditions of indoor playhouses, is its longest, and includes discussion of cosmetics, beauty, and concepts of virtue (Karim-Cooper), sounds and sights (Sarah Dustagheer), lighting (Martin [End Page 183] White), audiences (Penelope Woods), the construction of live intimacy (Paul Menzer), and the affective qualities implicit in the architectural and historical associations of the Blackfriars (Tiffany Stern). If the first section of the book challenges readers to think about the possibilities and limitations involved in imaginative and architectural reconstructions of Jacobean performance, this second section shows how and why to take on such a challenge. In the final, much shorter section on fashions, Gurr’s chapter is so wide-ranging as to rather defy easy summation, taking in the early history of the musical as well as the indoor playhouse’s role in shaping literary coteries. Eleanor Collins offers (alongside Dustagheer’s earlier essay) the book’s most detailed exploration and sustained close reading of indoor repertories, exploring gender, genre, and court patronage in Caroline plays at the Cockpit as well as the Blackfriars. Collins’s work on the Cockpit sidesteps a potential problem in the rest of the book by dealing with a repertory that was written for only one primary performance space, and her conclusions feel accordingly more concrete. A wonderfully sceptical essay by Bart van Es closes the main part of the collection, arguing that collaboration and competition with other writers are more responsible than any...