Skip to main content
V&A/RCA History of Design (MA)

Grace Santry

Based in London, Grace has over four years of experience working in both cultural and UK government policy. She is currently Policy and Communications Manager at the Royal National Theatre. Before this, she worked on policy at the Cabinet Office while simultaneously achieving the V&A/RCA History of Design master's degree (Performance Pathway), and freelancing as Archivist and Researcher at the Royal Court Theatre. Grace has also worked at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Grace completed her undergraduate degree at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, studying Design for the Stage, and has worked as a freelance costume and set designer for companies such as Hackney Shed.

While studying at the V&A/RCA, she co-curated Queer They Are (2022), an exhibition highlighting queer female spaces in London over the past 100 years, and worked on a series of workshops, Making London Porcelain, for local sixth-form students that culminated in a public exhibition and talk focusing on how English porcelain was developed in 18th century Chelsea and Bow factories.  

Top banner from left to right: Men in the Cities theatrical model made by Grace Santry; US theatrical model designed and made by Sally Jacobs; US theatrical model designed and made by Sally Jacobs; Royal Opera House theatrical model display, Victoria & Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Galleries; Her Naked Skin sketch by Grace Santry; Her Naked Skin theatrical model made by Grace Santry; Her Naked Skin Central School of Speech and Drama 2018 designed by Grace Santry.

Grace standing in front of the National Theatre Lyttleton flies tower at night

I have been passionate about theatre and performance ever since I took a career test when I was 14 and it told me to be a costume designer. I’d like to think that I now know a bit more about the world of theatres and performance.

During my time studying on the V&A/RCA History of Design programme I have written a historiographic essay about liveness in theatre using NT Live as a case study, an object essay exploring Peter Brooks 1966 production US through a theatrical model created by Sally Jacobs (which haunts my dreams to this day), and a dissertation exploring theatrical models held at institutions such as the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, and Victoria & Albert Museum. Central to my research has been their lives post-performance.

Over the past few years, theatre and performance has faced a seemingly never-ending series of threats. I am using my learning and experience in the hopes of working towards a world where theatre is not only thriving but seen as vital. 

Performing Post-Performance: What is the place of theatrical models post their lives as tools in exhibitions? And to what extent

Theatrical models are a critical component in the creation of theatre and performance. From experimental first drafts in the form of initial and sketch models, the working and experimental white card models, all the way through to the final scenographic model and theatrical model box, multiple forms of theatrical model will be made and most will be destroyed by the end of the production process.

In the National Theatre Archive there are only twenty-one models out of the over eight hundred plays the National has produced since opening on the 22nd of October 1963. My dissertation explored the place of theatrical models post their lives as tools in exhibitions. And to what extent can curators and exhibition creators use design to engage audiences with theatrical models most effectively?

In chapter one this is done through textual and material analysis of theatrical models, identifying and defining the different forms of theatrical models designers will use throughout the pre-performance process and identifying theatrical models as having an essence of performance not dependant on the live performances for which they were made. Chapter two uses three case studies of theatrical models displayed post-performance at the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, and Victoria and Albert Museum to explore how curators and exhibition creators can engage audiences with this essence of performance in theatrical models. Demonstrating how the design of exhibitions has allowed theatrical models to move between models of and models for, facilitating a deeper relationship between theatrical models and their audiences in museums and displays. Granting theatrical models their own identity – not by completely exorcising the ghosts of performance past from them, but by offering more possibilities for visitors to engage with not just the history and memories of theatrical models but the essence of performance and the tools for imagination found in all models. 

Theatrical model in the National Theatre Archive
Theatrical model in the National Theatre Archive
V&A Edward Gordon-Craig exhibition interactive model
V&A Edward Gordon-Craig exhibition interactive model

Robert Beacroft Barker Bursary