Performing place, heritage and Henry V in Portsmouth historic dockyard

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Holdsworth, Nadine (2016)

This article focuses on a reading of an amateur Royal Navy Theatre Association (RNTA) production: Collingwood RSC’s open-air Henry V, which took place alongside the iconic HMS Victory housed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The production emerged as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages initiative and this article considers how the RNTA, and this production, became implicated in systems of cultural value implicit not only in Open Stages, but more specifically in the heritage re-development of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. It argues that this site’s promotion of maritime history, naval heritage and cultural tourism can be understood in relation to Laurajane Smith’s understanding of authorised heritage discourse and heritage as a cultural performance engaged in the construction of cultural identity, memory and place. After situating Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as a performative environment that stages narratives of nationhood and empire, it considers how Collingwood RSC’s Henry V engaged with and became explicitly dominated by these narratives. The article proposes that the insertion of the real in the form of the theatricalized heritage setting, serving navy personnel and the acting out of naval traditions provokes questions about how the blurring of the dramatic and the real, the past and present had a profound impact on the affective economies and ideological ramifications of the production.
  • References (3)

    1 Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory (London: Verso, 1994), p.205.

    2 See Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (London: Routledge, 2006).

    3 Laurajane Smith, 'The 'doing' of heritage', in Performing Heritage: Research, Practice and Innovation in Museum Theatre and Live Interpretation, ed. by Anthony Jackson and Jenny Kidd (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), p. 80.

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