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Dissatisfied Ghosts: Theatre spectatorship and the production of cultural value

Wilkinson, Julie and Reason, M and Sedgman, K and Barker, M (2015) Dissatisfied Ghosts: Theatre spectatorship and the production of cultural value. Participations: journal of audience and reception studies, 12. ISSN 1749-8716

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Abstract

This paper charts an investigation into how creative and dialogic research methods can enhance understanding of what audiences make of the experience of watching theatre. It does so by drawing upon two connected research projects. In The Spirit of Theatre, a study conducted with the Library Theatre Company in Manchester, we piloted creative techniques; lessons learned in this project indicated important questions for the larger Theatre Spectatorship and Value Attribution study. The British Theatre Consortium of writers and researchers worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the New Vic in London, and the Drum in Plymouth to consider audience response to a range of plays, over time. In interviews and workshops we identified and analysed imaginative mechanisms implicated in the formation of cultural value, through networks of association. The methodology re-positions the spectator as a partner in the interpretation of their experience of watching a performance. However, not all respondents value performances on the basis of their imaginative utility, indicating that there are competing models of cultural formation in play amongst the audiences we surveyed.

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