Theatre Research International



The Pervasiveness of the Commonplace: The Historian and Amateur Theatre


Claire Cochrane 

Abstract

Amateur theatre constitutes a largely unexplored narrative within the dominant histories of British theatre that traditionally foreground professional practice. A consequence of advanced capitalism has been an increasing emphasis on professionalism in all sectors of society that constructs the amateur as incompetent and expects guaranteed rewards for professional expertise. Statistically, however, amateur theatre has represented a major experience of performance for a significant proportion of the population especially those of the small nations that have been subsumed within the British nation-state. Much of today's state-funded theatre that ostracizes the amateur, has its roots in early twentieth-century amateur/professional collaborations and grassroots activity in the inter-war years. An examination of the ideological basis of aesthetic value judgements which are, in fact, socially constructed judgements of taste, raises issues about both the cultural value of performance and the responsibility of the historian to the experience of the past.