‘Reading the Intertheatrical’

In our reading group on 9th March 2023 we discussed Jacky Bratton’s ‘Reading the Intertheatrical, or, The Mysterious Disappearance of Susanna Centlivre’, chosen by Juliana Beykirch. If you need a pdf copy of the text, please contact us to let us know. Juliana prepared the following prompts:

Text Summary:

In this chapter, Bratton explores why generations of critics have considered the works of Susanna Centlivre, an extraordinarily successful eighteenth-century playwright, as unworthy of an inclusion into the literary canon (7-11). She argues that the reason lies in Centlivre’s plays’ high degree of what she calls intertheatricality (12-17).

Bratton defines intertheatricality as “that mesh of connections between theatre texts and between texts and their creators and realisers that makes up the moving, multi-dimensional, cross-hatched background out of which individual performances, nights at the theatre, regularly crystallise” (15). She continues:

The plays written and performed within a single theatrical tradition are all interdependent. They are uttered in a theatrical code shared by writers, performers and audience which consists not only of language, but of genres, conventions and memory – shared by the audience – of previous plays and scenes, previous performances, the actors’ previous roles and their known personae on and off the stage. There is a collaboration, taking place not only over the period of the creation of a play in rehearsal, but anew, live, each night of its performance in front of an audience, that creates shared meaning out of the concatenation of theatre systems that is far more complex than any set of conventions deployed by a writer whose medium is print. (15)


  • In your own research, to what extent do you consider intertheatrical connections? Which connections are particularly important for your work? What insights do examinations of these connections provide?
  • Bratton also distinguishes between ‘theatre’ and ‘drama’, arguing that Centlivre’s plays “belong to the theatre – they support it and are supported by it” and that they are “precisely the kind of writing that refuses to be understood on the page, as ‘Drama'” (15). What do you think about Bratton’s distinction between theatre (stage) and drama (page) and the connection she creates between the intertheatrical quality of Centlivre’s writing and her exclusion from the literary canon?
  • Bratton claims that intertheatricality/collaborative practice is a “feminine aesthetic, in the same way that entertainment is a feminised tradition; neither is really confined to women, but both are excluded and downgraded by that association, in the service of ‘male’ models of history and of genius” (21). Do you agree?

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