'Staging the Restoration Spectacular'
Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Dr David Taylor | Faculty of English | University of Oxford
Creation Theatre | Lucy Askew
The period of British history that we call the 'Restoration' (c. 1660-1700) witnessed a technological revolution in theatres, a revolution that gave birth to the kind of spectacular theatre that now dominates the West End and Broadway. At this time, elaborate, moveable scenery, flying machines, multiple trapdoors, and pyrotechnics changed the way drama was performed - and the kind of drama that was performed. This was the first age of multimedia, spectacular theatre.
In this Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, I will collaborate with Creation Theatre to give this spectacular theatre of the past new digital life. We will work together on a series of rehearsed readings of Restoration plays, using these performances to explore both how they use spectacle and how we can make this spectacular repertoire speak to today's audiences; and will we mount a full digital production of Aphra Behn's 'The Emperor of the Moon' (1687), one of the Restoration's most spectacular plays.
Plays such as 'Emperor' are the descendants of the video game and CGI-heavy blockbuster movie; reviving them is a way of helping today's audiences understand the complex history and functions of spectacle in our culture. At the same time, exploring the visual complexity of Restoration theatre will enable Creation Theatre to use the historical repertoire to experiment with new approaches to 'digital theatre', which they've pioneered since 2020.