Theatre History and the General Public: Plays, Companies and Playhouses

Submitting Institution

Keele University

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Dr Lucy Munro's consultancy and public engagement work with Shakespeare's Globe and King Edward VI School has brought her cutting-edge research on early modern theatre history into the public domain, helping to shape not only broader understandings of this field in the culture at large but also the performative and material specifics of its contemporary production. Dr Munro's research focuses in particular on the places in which plays were performed, the companies that performed them, and the ways in which theatrical repertories were constructed.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research is Dr Munro's work on late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century theatre history, which she conducted at Keele University as a lecturer (2004-8) and senior lecturer (2008-13). Her key publication is a monograph, Children of the Queen's Revels: A Jacobean Theatre Repertory (2005), which set out new approaches to the children's companies of early modern England and the plays that they performed. Described in The Times Literary Supplement as `redefin[ing] the template for company histories', it has reinvigorated the study of theatrical repertories, playing companies and, in particular, the early modern children's companies. Later research in all of these areas has been explicitly indebted to her work: examples include Edel Lamb's Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre: The Children's Companies, 1599-1613 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), John Astington's Actors and Acting in Shakespeare's Time: The Art of Stage Playing (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and David Nicol's Middleton and Rowley: Forms of Collaboration in the Early Modern Playhouse (Toronto University Press, 2012).

In more recent essays she has contributed to a wider reassessment of the conditions of staging in the early modern playhouse, writing significant essays on music and sound (2009, below), and on special effects involving blood and dismemberment (2013, below). Her work has also played an instrumental role in restoring neglected dramatists, such as Richard Brome. Thus, she has assisted the reappraisal of Caroline drama through her work on Richard Brome Online, an Arts and Humanities Research Council-supported electronic collection of his works that incorporates performance material, and through her work on plays performed at Ireland's first purpose-built playhouse in Dublin in the 1630s. Her essay `The Early Modern Repertory and the Performance of Shakespeare's Contemporaries Today' (2012, below) surveys the current state of the performance of non-Shakespearean early modern plays, drawing on and informing her consultancy work.

Keele has supported this research through QR-funded research time and sabbatical leave (in spring 2007 and autumn 2010), and it has provided financial support (c. £550 per year) for research-related expenses. The Research Institute for Humanities has supported Dr Munro in grant applications to the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust (resulting in success in the Leverhulme Fellowship competition in the year 2009-10). In addition, Keele University has supported research into the theatre history of the early modern period through sustained investment in its vibrant and internationally recognised Early Modern Research Group, which brings together researchers in English and History. This research grouping has been active since the mid-1990s; it holds regular research seminars, often conducted by international visitors. The research group has supported the development of a number of careers that have made important contributions to the study of early modern theatre history and drama, including Professor Julie Sanders (University of Nottingham), Professor James Knowles (Brunel University) and Professor Karen Britland (University of Wisconsin, Madison). Dr Munro continues actively to collaborate with these colleagues.

References to the research

Munro, L. (2005) Children of the Queen's Revels: A Jacobean Theatre Repertory. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Paperback edition 2011 (monograph; peer-reviewed).


Munro, L. (2007) `Dublin Tragicomedy and London Stages', in Lyne, R. and Mukherji, S. (eds.) Early Modern Tragicomedy, Boydell and Brewer: Suffolk. Pp.175-92 (chapter; peer-reviewed).


Munro, L. (2012) `The Early Modern Repertory and the Performance of Shakespeare's Contemporaries Today', in Prince, K. and Aebischer, P. (Eds.)Performing Early Modern Drama Today, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Pp.17-34 (chapter; peer-reviewed).


Munro, L. (2009) `Music and Sound', in Dutton, R. (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre, Oxford University Pres: Oxford. Pp.543-59 (chapter; peer-reviewed at publication stage; volume has won the Elizabeth Dietz Memorial Award for 2012 and was short-listed for the 2009 Society for Theatre Research Book Prize).

Munro, L. (Ed.) (2009)'The Queen and Concubine' and `The Demoiselle', in Allen Cave, R. (general ed.) Richard Brome Online, Royal Holloway, University of London / Sheffield University (funded by an AHRC Research Grant to Professor Cave [2004]; (online chapters; peer reviewed).

Munro, L. (2013) `"They eat each others' arms": Stage Blood and Body Parts', in Karim-Cooper, F. and Stern, T. (Eds.) Shakespeare's Theatres and the Effects of Performance, Arden Shakespeare: London. Pp.73-93 (chapter; peer-reviewed).

Details of the impact

Through consultancy and public engagement, Dr Munro's research has helped to shape the ways in which early modern theatre history is understood. While she has delivered a number of public lectures and taken part in conferences open to the public, the real impact of her research can be seen in its influence on major projects which aim to present theatre history to the general public in performative and material forms. The reach and significance of the impact can be found in the areas of: performance, training and education and architecture. In terms of performance, Dr Munro's research has informed the selection and performance of plays in professional and non- professional contexts. In particular, it has helped to shape two long-running projects, one at the Education Department of Shakespeare's Globe and one at King Edward VI School, Stratford- Upon-Avon. In terms of architecture, Dr Munro's work with the Architecture Research Group of Shakespeare's Globe has had a direct impact on the form of the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Performance, training and education

Globe Education
Dr Munro is a long-standing consultant for Globe Education's acclaimed series of public staged readings, Read Not Dead. These are one-off professional performances with scripts in hand, which take place in seasons of between three and five plays and are staged in studio spaces at Shakespeare's Globe (capacity c. 150). More than 200 plays have been performed since 1995, and a number have gone on to receive full productions by Shakespeare's Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company, among others.

Dr Munro's work for Read Not Dead has included selecting and curating plays, providing scripts, writing programme notes, contributing blurbs for season brochures, answering queries from directors, and giving public seminars. In particular, her work on Children of the Queen's Revels informed her curation of a series of plays originally performed by children's companies for the Globe Education season `The Young and Shakespeare' in 2007-8. This season promoted the activities of these companies significantly beyond their usual scholarly contexts, and it introduced her to the work of Edward's Boys, with whom she later collaborated (see below). Her research into Caroline theatre history informed her choice of Richard Brome's play The Court Beggar for the autumn 2012 season, `Playing Indoors', and it brought this neglected play before audiences for the first time in nearly 400 years.

One of Read Not Dead's vital functions is to give career-young actors experience in working with classical drama. Dr Munro has had direct input into the training of actors through her work for the Sam Wanamaker Festival, an annual showcase of the work of final-year student actors performed at Shakespeare's Globe to audiences of up to 1600 people, for which she has led play-selection workshops for directors (2009, 2011-13). Dr Munro's extensive knowledge of early modern plays, gained through her work on theatre history, is significantly shaping this training activity: her research is thus informing and transforming the experience of new generations of theatre professionals.

King Edward VI School and Edward's Boys
Dr Munro's research on the early modern children's companies has also been disseminated through her work with King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon. Since 2005 the Deputy Head, Perry Mills, has directed performances of neglected children's company plays including John Marston's Antonio's Revenge (2011), Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (2010) and Thomas Dekker and John Webster's Westward Ho! (2012). Dr Munro has acted as a consultant for the company since 2007, and the impact of her research — in particular her work on the ages of boy actors and her refutation of the idea that they performed only in heavily parodic styles — has impacted on the casting and performance styles adopted by the company. The company, known as Edward's Boys ( has performed in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwick, Oxford and London to audiences of up to 150 people in each location. Through its performances, which are recorded and available to buy on DVD, and its online presence, this company is reshaping public understanding of the children's companies.


Dr Munro's research into early modern theatre history has also informed the construction of a new theatre: the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which will open in Spring 2014. Since November 2009 she has been a member of Shakespeare's Globe's Architecture Research Group (see She was invited to join the group on the strength of her expert knowledge of the Blackfriars playhouse and the plays performed there, gained through her work on Children of the Queen's Revels. Through her membership of the Group she has played an important part in the discussions that shaped the design of the new theatre. Her research will thus have a considerable material impact on audiences who experience and enjoy this theatre in the years to come, and its opening season will include two Queen's Revels plays: Francis Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle and John Marston's The Malcontent.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Globe Education:

Director, Globe Education

Globe Education season brochures, annual reports and press releases

Edward's Boys:

Deputy Head, King Edward VI School, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Edward's Boys website:


Head of Research and Courses, Globe Education; Chair of the Architecture Research Group Shakespeare's Globe Architecture Research Group rationale and membership:

World-wide media coverage of the announcement that the Globe's indoor theatre is to be called the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, mentioning the role of the Architecture Research Group:

BBC News, 27 November 2012, `Globe's new Sam Wanamaker indoor theatre to be lit by candles':;

The Guardian, 27 November 2012, `Globe's new Sam Wanamaker indoor theatre to be lit by candles':;

The Independent, 28 November 2012 `New Jacobean-style venue being built by the Globe to be called Sam Wanamaker Theatre': arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/new-jacobeanstyle-venue-being-built-by-the-globe-to-be- called-sam-wanamaker-theatre-8360414.html

The Australian, 30 November 2012, `Shakespeare by candlelight': 1226526968833#