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Title: 'Our place' : class, the theatre audience and the Royal Court Liverpool
Author: Barrett, Maria
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigates theatregoing and class, using as a locus the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. The Royal Court is unusually successful in attracting and retaining first time theatregoers and others from some of the most deprived postcodes in the UK. The study’s original contribution to knowledge is threefold: its focus on the relationship between theatre and audience that encompasses the whole theatregoing event; its focus on theatre audiences and social class; and its use of Bourdieu’s conceptual triad not only as an underpinning theory and a framework, but also as a method. The findings have important implications for cultural policy, which has been over reliant on ticket pricing as a mechanism which has failed to widen cultural attendance. The thesis uses a single case to examine the phenomenon of theatregoing. The primary method of investigation is a series of field visits of a theatre season and subsequent thick description of observations. This is supported by ethnographic methods in order to understand phenomena from the perspective of audience members; these are focus groups, interviews, and an analysis of user generated content (TripAdvisor). The thesis finds that the history of the Royal Court Theatre has not only shaped its position in the field, but is key to its perception by audiences today, the building having a particular place in the imaginary of a working class culture. Inside the auditorium, innovative seating arrangements contribute to a playful social space that can be ‘owned’ by audiences. The Theatre’s repertoire is distinctive, in that it employs tropes, such as comedy and participation, that are bound up with the concept of ‘Scouse’, itself a classed construct. These elements combine to form a physical and social space that is congruent to a working class habitus. The implications of the findings are in two fields, sociology and cultural policy. From a sociological perspective, the thesis concludes that Bourdieu’s conceptual triad is not only useful as a concept but also as a method by which to understand theatregoing and other phenomena in the twenty-first century. The application of Bourdieu’s conceptual triad to the empirical phenomenon of twenty-first century British theatregoing results in a more nuanced understanding of a working class aesthetic and working class values. For cultural policy, the thesis finds that using pricing as a mechanism to widen cultural attendance is to miss the point of the real issues facing working class people in the theatre which are around symbolic violence. If we really wish to widen theatre attendance, we need to offer working class people a theatre model that speaks to their values.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology ; PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater