Library Dissertation Showcase

Understanding the role and function of a theatre backstage tour

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2022

Forced to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, UK theatres are seeking to engage and make connections with their audiences, as well as finding fresh initiatives to attract new customers once again. Within the context of a servicescape model, this paper sets out the importance of the theatre backstage tour as an integral activity for audience development, cultural tourism, income generation, heritage learning and aiding inter-department connectivity. The paper aims to fill a considerable gap in arts and tourism research, as whilst there has been significant study into guided tours, including those undertaken at sports stadia and museums, as well as the more niche area of ghost tours, there has been a scholarly absence of work conducted on theatre tours. Drawing inspiration from Brecht’s 1926 poem The Curtains, quoted in this paper’s title, it will be shown that the theatre tour does provide valuable insight into the work of a theatre for the general public. However, with its strong performative approach, it is also able to control the audience gaze and transform the mundane. This paper will present the findings of observations of theatre tours at the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham and at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford-upon-Avon, conducted in August 2022, alongside interviews with key personnel responsible for those tours. A short post-tour questionnaire was also conducted with visitors. With results endorsing the theatre tour as a touristic performance that can encourage visitors to the mainstage, this paper recommends both wider audience research and greater acknowledgement within the industry of the value of the theatre tour.

Keywords: Theatre; Performance; Backstage Tour; Cultural Tourism; Guided Tours; Audience Development.

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