Ursula: Fear of the Estuary: Theatre Production

Sarah Crews (Other)

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


Wrestling with the Text: Staging Ursula: Fear of the Estuary

The aim of this project was to develop performance practices for staging the plays of Howard Barker, a renowned dramatist and director whose plays have been staged and written about scholars for over 30 years. Key to the originality of this work was the intention to create practical processes that do not adhere to Barker’s own aesthetics. I wanted to find a mechanism for staging Barker’s plays that does not seek to appease Barker’s own expectations of performers, as is typically done in Barker studies. In this sense the project served as a contribution to, and intervention in, Barker studies, whereby the actors responses to the text and characters were prioritised – the participants involved had no prior knowledge of Barker’s work; their performances were instead developed via a series of explorative workshops using Viewpoints – a performance making vocabulary typically associated with devised theatre practices. I applied Viewpoints practices to Barker’s written texts – namely in the exploration of Shape, Gesture and Space – in order to investigate character, narrative and the verbal and visual language of the text independent of Barker’s theatre theory. In contrast to Barker’s own rehearsal process, the workshops I undertook were democratic in the sense that there was no one leader and/or authority figure in the room.
My inquiry was pursued over 12 weeks of rigorous and explorative rehearsals; the production involved two different casts in order to explore fully the ideas and performances that were emerging from the cast of 16 undergraduate performers. The process culminated in 4 public performances at The Riverfront, Newport, which were attended by the general public in South Wales, scholars both in the field of Barker studies and performance studies more broadly, and undergraduate students from institutions across Wales.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2014


  • directing
  • theatre
  • Performance
  • practice based research
  • practice as research
  • viewpoints
  • ensemble


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