Underneath the Arches: Developing a relational theatre practice in response to a specific cultural site

David Overend

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis applies Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of ‘relational aesthetics’ to the development of site-specific theatre practice. Focussing on the Arches arts centre in Glasgow, the aim is to suggest ways in which a performance aesthetic can be developed that uses, makes evident and contributes to what Bourriaud describes as the ‘space of relations’ that exists within every site. Employing a practice-as-research methodology in order to develop a ‘relational theatre practice’, the performances that comprise half of this thesis aim to respond to and generate relationships not only between theatre and its ‘audience’, but through a sensitivity to site as historically, geographically, culturally and socially located. Key to this project is an understanding of the boundaries, limitations and exclusions that inevitably come to define theatre practice in a site with as many contradictory and conflicting relationships as a busy arts venue like the Arches.

The findings of this research are primarily dependent on three practice-as-research projects at the venue: Underneath the Arches (January 2009), Midland Street (September 2009) and A Work on Progress (April 2010). These projects have focussed respectively on three key areas of relational theatre practice; the performance text, the theatre audience and processes of theatre production. The written part of the thesis provides an exegesis of this practice, critically reflecting on the relationships that developed through the performances. Combining a practical and theoretical approach, this research interrogates Bourriaud’s relational aesthetic model through its application to the development of theatre practice within the specific context of a cultural site. Conversely, it reveals and works with the multiple relationships of the Arches, thereby providing new knowledge about the relational processes through which a cultural site is constituted.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
  • Heddon, Deirdre, Supervisor, External person
  • Donald, Minty, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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