Archival research and creative methods
Archive work and historiographic research are activities that require methodological rigor but have also been theorised as demanding a good dose of imagination2. The project to translate and restage the drama Correio Braziliese, supported by von Schlippenbach research funding in 2022, represented an opportunity to explore a historical source recently found at the BBC archives though creative methods. Two factors were important in conceptualising its restaging. First, as the BBC LAS productions during the 1940s had a very limited budget, they were usually recorded not by professional actors, but by the journalists and other staff members working at the Section. This understanding helped the students to embrace an amateur theatre approach to the script. Secondly, the fact that there is no recording of the original performance of the play – and the limits imposed by the sound effect indications in the script – demanded from the students both research and translation skills, as well as historical imagination.
From a pedagogical perspective, the process gave the students an immersive experience in linguistic and historical research: they had to find translation solutions for a drama written in the 1940s, set in the early 19th century, and restaged in the 21st century. From a research perspective, recording the drama also had an interesting impact on our reading of the script: performing the lines written by Callado highlighted and brought to the fore some dramatic strategies implicit in the script. For example, the role of irony in some of the dialogues, particularly when power dynamics were being represented, such as in the conversation between Da Costa and Southey.
One of the project’s aims was to use a WW2 radio drama to foster a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between aesthetics, media, and political propaganda, in both historical and contemporary contexts. It aimed at engaging students, and the public, through a combination of teaching, research, and dissemination. The ways in which these practices cross-fertilized each other were, in the end, unexpected but very rewarding.
1 For more on the relationship between propaganda and entertainment in BBC LAS programmes during WW2, see Mandur Thomaz, Daniel (2022) Propaganda and Entertainment in the BBC Latin American Service During WW2, Media History, 28:1, 142-159
2 See, for example, Gale and Featherstone (2011). "The Imperative of the Archive: Creative Archive Research", in Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, edited by Baz Kershaw and Helen Nicholson, 17-40, Edinburgh University Press.