Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Billy J. Harbin


The Royal Court Theatre's current renovation invites a reexamination of the English Stage Company (ESC). The ESC has entered a crucible of change, raising new questions concerning the Royal Court's architectural semiotics and company's aesthetic mission as London's most acclaimed producer of new plays. This study seeks to understand the ways in which its identity has been shaped and consolidated over the last forty-two years and how the current chapter in ESC history redefines the company's identity and future achievement. The English Stage Company took over the Royal Court in early in 1956. The ESC's marriage with the theatre appears serendipitous in retrospect, because key elements of the ESC's mission correspond to characteristic events from the building's history. The institutionalization of the ESC/Royal Court during the late nineteen eighties and early nineteen nineties ensured that the identity of theatre company and theatre building became indistinguishable. The current rebuilding program endeavors to retain the ghosts of the building's past and the intimacy of its auditorium while transforming a late Victorian receiving house into a flexible, modern, producing theatre capable of juxtaposing new plays against the context of the traditional proscenium stage. Recognizing the complex cultural matrix that embeds the theatrical event, this study employs both a synchronic and diachronic approach when exploring the cultural genealogy of the Royal Court. The study begins with the sequence of events during the nineteen nineties that led the company to undertake a twenty-six million pound rebuilding program. It then traces three strands of history that entwined to become the story of the single entity known as the Royal Court: the history of the building, the independent theatre movement in England, and the English Stage Company. It takes a detailed look at the plan of the current renovation project and the image of the Royal Court it presents. The conclusion attempts to discern the future challenges of the Royal Court following its return home in the year 2000.