Posted on 11 April 2018
Built in 1788, the Theatre Royal in Richmond is the oldest working theatre in its original form in Britain. Declan has developed a close relationship with the theatre during the course of his PhD research into late eighteenth-century Northern theatre circuits. In June 2016 Declan helped organize and film an immersive ‘Soundscape’ workshop held at the theatre and sponsored by CECS, the Humanities Research Centre and the university’s Creativity Fund. A video of the workshop is available to watch online.
Declan advised the theatre during the development of their new museum and information centre, which opened in the summer of 2016 and was awarded a ‘White Rose’ Tourism award in 2017.
In 2017 the theatre commissioned Declan to produce an introductory film for visitors to 'The Georgian Theatre Experience’. This features local volunteers as well as professional actors and provides background information about the Butler company which built the theatre, part of a transpennine circuit that stretched from Whitby and Beverley in the East to Kendal and Ulverston in the West.
Declan’s research explores how northern theatre companies such as Butler's contributed to local associational life in the late eighteenth century. Although historians frequently describe theatres as centres of sociability, to date attention has largely been focused upon London, leaving provincial theatres like Richmond relatively unexamined. In an attempt to address this gap in the historiography, he is exploring how provincial players acted as nodes for networks that linked individuals and communities across the region and beyond. As his research reveals, these northern thespians were not just bit players in the intellectual and political dramas of the period, but leading actors.