Joanne Tompkins and Julie Holledge – Reconstructing the ‘art of assembling’ in Adelaide in 1841


Joanne Tompkins and Julie Holledge

University of Queensland and Flinders University

Reconstructing the ‘art of assembling’ in Adelaide in 1841

This paper reports on an experimental research process that aims to reconstruct the culture of spectatorship at the Queen’s Theatre in Adelaide on the opening night of the theatre in January 1841. The premise behind the research is that it is impossible to reproduce the audience-performer relationship in any lost performance without an understanding of the spatial dynamics of the performance venue. The Visualizing Lost Theatres project creates VR models of lost venues to offer immersive laboratories to explore performances from the past. The scholars and artists working inside the VR Queens have embodied elements from the textual archives on the opening performances of Othello within this 3D spatial environment. The paper will introduce the VR model, outline the contextual framework for the performance, explore the probable interpretation of Othello by the cast, all of whom had performed in the play in Hobart and Sydney before moving to Adelaide, and encapsulate what is known about the spectators who attended the opening night performance. Recordings will be presented of the actor-researchers exploring the possible responses of this audience to the performance of the death of Desdemona. Finally, the possibilities for new knowledge to be generated through this experimental methodology will be assessed, particularly about the history of human gatherings consuming fictional material.

Joanne Tompkins, Professor of Theatre at the University of Queensland, was until June Executive Director for Humanities and Creative Arts at the Australian Research Council. She has published numerous books and essays on contemporary and historical theatre research. She is a foundation member of AusStage and is currently researches the possibilities of recreating theatres that no longer exist by means of virtual theatre, through the cultural heritage development company, Ortelia. Her book, Visualising Lost Theatres, co-written with Jonathan Bollen, Julie Holledge and Liyang Xia, is forthcoming in 2021

Julie Holledge, Emeritus Professor, Flinders University. Julie Holledge began her career as an actor and director in the British alternative theatre movement in the 1970s. and moved to Australia in the early 1980s. Major publications include Innocent Flowers: Women in Edwardian Theatre (1981); Women’s Intercultural Performance (2000) with Joanne Tompkins; and A Global Doll’s House (2016) with Jonathan Bollen, Frode Helland, and Joanne Tompkins.