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Crossing the Channel: Staging Contemporary French Plays in Britain and British Plays in France in the 21st Century


   School of Arts

  Dr Margherita Laera, Dr Ariane Martinez  Monday, February 28, 2022  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Canterbury United Kingdom Drama French Theatre Studies

About the Project

Applications must be received by Sunday 28 February 2022 – 23.59  

The British and French theatre systems enjoy two of the strongest contemporary playwriting fields in Europe, and both sectors are supported by sustained state arts funding. However, the two ecologies differ greatly in the way they approach theatre aesthetics, acting methods, theatre translation, mise en scene, the ethics of representation, audience taste and the construction of cultural value through theatre. This research project will ask what we can learn by comparing the British and French theatre scenes and their interactions in the 21st century – before, around and after the time of Britain’s departure from the EU – through focusing on recent productions of plays in translation.

Case study analysis of contemporary French plays staged in the UK and British plays staged in France will illuminate attitudes to theatre, as well as politics, cultural value and ethics. How does Britain stage France, and how does France represent Britain on stage in the 21st century? And what can be learned from surveying what is not staged in translation?

For instance, living French playwrights such as Joël Pommerat, Wajdi Mouawad, Alexandra Badéa, Marie NDiaye, Valère Novarina, Michel Vinaver and Magali Mougel are successful at home, but very few have heard of them in the UK, where Florian Zeller and Yasmina Reza appear to be the only writers to have made it to the West End in recent years. By contrast, living British writers such as Mark Ravenhill, Caryl Churchill, Simon Stephens, Howard Barker, Naomi Wallace, debbie tucker green, Alistar McDowall, Alice Birch, Hannah Khalil, Zinnie Harris and many others are regularly translated and staged in France.

The aim of this research project will be to compare the two theatre systems, their values and ‘entente cordiale’ by 1) focusing on what each knows and makes of the other on the basis of recent productions of contemporary plays in translation from and into French and English in the past 10 years, and 2) by examining the remainder, what is left out, and questioning what that tells us about each context.

Research questions will include: a) what does British and French audiences’ perceived taste, which drives the selection and exclusion of texts, tell us about the ideologies they embody and the value systems that are perpetuated by the two industries? b) What are the current discourses around gender and race equality in each context, and how is each context perceived by the other? c) What are current attitudes, practices and systems around the support for translations? d) How are current perceptions of the role of directing/mise en scene vs playwriting/dramaturgie changing in recent years?

The doctoral student will select relevant case studies to focus on in collaboration with supervisors. These could include, but are not limited to:

–     approaches to theatre translation, its value and funding

–     playwriting and performance aesthetics, politics and ethics

–     race, gender and ability in relation to theatre translation, playwriting and performance practices

–     text vs mise en scène

–     post-dramatic texts and actor training

–     theatre translation, touring and Brexit

Key attributes and skills for prospective applicants 

The successful applicant will need to demonstrate:

 Essential

–     MA in Drama or other Humanities discipline

–     Excellent written and oral communication skills

–     Excellent research and organisation skills

–     Ability to prioritise and self-manage

 Desirable

-       Advanced French language skills

-       familiarity with French theatre

How to apply 

To apply please go to https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/351/drama-by-research. You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results, two academic references). Please provide a statement to explain your reasons for study and your suitability and interest for this project. 


Funding Notes

Tuition fees and stipend at the standard Research Council rate (Home rate only: £4,500 (fees) and £15,609 (stipend) in 2021/22). The 2022/2023 rate is yet to be announced by the UK Research Councils.
Open to overseas/home/EU fee paying students.
The scholarship covers home fees only, however international students are welcome to apply and fund the difference.
Scholarships are available on a cotutelle (dual award) basis only.
Students have to spend at least 12 months at Kent and Lille.
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