The focus of this session will be the Russian theatre director Theodore Komisarjevsky, who lived and worked in Britian between 1919 and 1939. During his time in the country, Komisarjevsky staged a series of productions at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, regularly directed leading actors such as John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Charles Laughton, and has often been credited with making Chekhov popular with British audiences. However, Komisarjevsky’s work was always interpreted through the prism of his national identity, where critics argued that his successes and his failures were due to him being foreign and, in particular, Russian. I am interested in examining how Komisarjevsky negotiated his status as a Russian emigre in inter-war Britain with reference to his own writings and whether his experience was comparable to other Russian emigres in Britain at the time.
Philippa Burt is currently completing her doctorate at Goldsmiths, University of London under Professor Maria Shevtsova. The focus of her thesis is the ideal of ensemble practice in twentieth-century British theatre, where she charts the underlying influence of Russian theatre on British directors.
You can listen to a podcast of the reading group below: