The Repairer and the Ad Hocist: Understanding the ‘ongoingness’ of the amateur theatre maker’s craft

Cara Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is motivated by the need to engage seriously with amateur dramatics as a subject of scholarly investigation, and pays particular attention to the craft involved in theatre making. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with the Settlement Players, an amateur dramatics group situated in Letchworth Garden City, UK, I illuminate ‘ongoingness’ as an important characteristic of amateur theatre making – where the craft of set building relies on a constant cycle of making, unmaking and remaking again. Firstly, I explore how set building is entwined with repair and maintenance by looking at the ways in which the Players care for their limited supply of materials – where bent screws and tarnished hinges are meticulously unscrewed, unstuck, unfixed and stored away, ready to be remade in the next set. Following this, I explore the Players’ resourcefulness and problem solving by examining the ways in which they repurpose objects to create their sets. Here, I look to work on ‘adhocism’, a design movement that embraces everyday improvisation: using a wine bottle as a candle holder, a knife as a screwdriver – or indeed a set of industrial metal shelving units as the foundations of a set. Overall this article contributes to two understudied, yet emerging, areas of research: contemporary amateur theatre and amateur craft. In doing so, it also speaks to wider debates of the ‘amateur’ within the contemporary amateur turn, which this special issue explores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Apr 2020

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