Staging Difficult Pasts: Of Narratives, Objects and Public Memory | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Staging Difficult Pasts: Of Narratives, Objects and Public Memory

Over the past few decades widespread attempts to expose or reinterpret public memory – which some scholars have called a ‘memory boom’ and others a ‘memory crisis’ – have been determined and shaped in theatres and museums, where formerly taboo historical narratives of difficult pasts have come to public concern for live audiences.

Bryce Lease (Royal Holloway, PI), Maria Delgado (The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, CI), Michal Kobialka (CI)

Over the past few decades widespread attempts to expose or reinterpret public memory – which some scholars have called a ‘memory boom’ and others a ‘memory crisis’ – have been determined and shaped in theatres and museums, where formerly taboo historical narratives of difficult pasts have come to public concern for live audiences.

Public memory is hotly contested because it is crucial to the construction of identity on national, cultural and individual levels. Attending to Jeffrey K. Olick’s critique of current limitations of memory studies, which he claims has made ‘slow headway’ conceptually and methodologically due to a lack of ‘cross-case’ (cultural, linguistic and disciplinary) connections, this project is timely in its assessment of key debates that have been limited to national frameworks.

We will consider how identitarian myths are given dramatic shape or are performativelyconfronted by theatre makers and curators primarily through narrative (a spoken or written account of connected events) and object (material things). Staging difficult pasts, theatre makers have innovated narrative forms and reframed theatrical and artefactual objects, while museums have increasingly privileged the staging of historical narratives over the display of objects, producing performative encounters as their primary object.

Thus, the project’s focus on narrative and object highlights key points of intersection between theatres and museums. While we have delineated between these in the research questions, we understand narratives and objects to be significantly enmeshed and mutually generative. "