Drama expert’s book gives international perspective on history of theatre

A University of Worcester drama and performance expert has published a new book that aims to change the way that people think about the history of theatre around the world.

Claire Cochrane, Professor of Theatre Studies, produced the book The Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography alongside Jo Robinson, Professor of Drama and Performance at the University of Nottingham.

Claire Cochrane, Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Worcester.

The book includes contributions from 16 international theatre academics writing about the history of theatre and performance in countries such as the USA, Australia, China, South Korea, Chile, India, Nigeria, Israel and Morocco.

“Each of the contributors has close personal connections with the theatres they are writing about and, in some cases, their local knowledge is receiving potentially global coverage for the first time,” said Professor Cochrane. “For example, there’s an essay about the first Nigerian professional actress Adunni Oluwole, who created a brand new form of street ‘guerrilla’ theatre to bring about political change in the 1950s. The essays challenge established assumptions about what’s worth studying in theatre history while, at the same time, showing the centrality of different kinds of performance culture both to people in the past and in the present day.”

Both Professors Cochrane and Robinson research theatre in the UK, with a particular interest in looking outside the well-known London theatre scene. They have written further chapters focused on how theatre history has developed as an academic discipline since the nineteenth century and how it is expanding to be more internationally inclusive.

They discuss the different sources that can be used for research, from written documents in archives, to oral testimonies, ancient theatre buildings, and the relatively new resources of sound recording and film, which can give us glimpses of how our ancestors looked and sounded.