1st Edition

Historically Responsive Storytelling How Contemporary Western Theatre is Rediscovering its Roots

By Eleanor Chadwick Copyright 2023
    320 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the notion that the emergent language of contemporary theatre, and more generally of modern culture, has links to much earlier forms of storytelling and an ancient worldview.

    This volume looks at our diverse and amalgamative theatrical inheritance and discusses various practitioners and companies whose work reflects and recapitulates ideas, approaches, and structures original to theatre’s ritual roots. Drawing together a range of topics and examples from the early Middle Ages to the modern day, Chadwick focuses on a theatrical language which includes an emphasis on the psychosomatic, the non-linear, the symbolic, the liminal, the collective, and the sacred.

    This interdisciplinary work draws on approaches from the fields of anthropology, philosophy, historical and cognitive phenomenology, and neuroscience, making the case for the significance of historically responsive modes in theatre practice and more widely in our society and culture.


    List of Illustrations



    PART ONE: Looking Back: Tracing Theatre’s Roots

    Chapter 1. Reaching for the Unknowable: the Human need for Ritual

    Chapter 2. A Flexible Superstructure: Macrocosm/Microcosm and the Medieval Worldview

    Chapter 3. The Power of Archetype: Universal-General and Historical-Specific

    Chapter 4. Time and Space: Hierophany and Imaginative Flexibility

    PART TWO: Moving Forward: New Historically-Responsive Methods

    Chapter 5. The Sacred Body-as-Text: from Medieval to Avant-Garde

    Chapter 6. Seeking Immersion, Finding Connection: the Contemporary Theatre

    Chapter 7. Theatre in Times of Crisis: the Power of Ancient Forms in Collective Processing




    Eleanor Chadwick is a researcher and theatre maker currently working with Watershed Pervasive Media Studio and University of Bristol on a MyWorld Fellowship. She is also Artistic Director of Sleight of Hand theatre company, and a postdoctoral associate in Theatre and Performance Studies at University of Warwick, UK.