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The Theatre of Progress

Part 1 Project 2013
Edward Crooks
University of Sheffield, UK
The Theatre of Progress proposes audience-participatory theatre as a means to revive Chatsworth House from its current stagnant condition to one of a wider societal influence. Chatsworth is a house and landscape constructed of samples borrowed from various global and historical sources, constructing a composed image that has been both influenced by, and has itself influenced society.

The proposal positions society as the influence on Chatsworth, using theatre to break the boundary between social hierarchies. Conceived as an extension to the existing narrative tourist route of Chatsworth, the building makes indistinguishable the difference between real and fake, prop and artefact, natural and artificial, continuing a progressive history of illusion, manipulation and deception on the estate.

Drawing influence from Rem Koolhaas’ description of Manhattan as a ‘theater of progress’, and Coney Island as ‘the incubator for Manhattan’s incipient themes and infant mythology’, the new building acts as a constantly changing, cyclical process of performance. To reignite a process of change, influence and reinvention within Chatsworth, it is necessary to build the ‘incubator’ in which new themes and mythologies can be developed.

To enable this, the building simulates, samples and decontextualizes the intended programmatic functions of Chatsworth House. Currently only passively observed within the house, the recreation of these seemingly disparate and unusual functions within a new context reveals the potential for participation and transformation within Chatsworth itself.

As part of the process, the Duke assumes the role of facilitator, symbolically moving from Chatsworth into the new building, where his new house enables the activity of real and theatrical events, whilst simultaneously positioning him as both private resident and exposed performer.

A mixture of illusion, performance, simulation and reality give a building that is not itself the transformation, but rather facilitates an unpredictable transformation.

Edward Crooks


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