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Olivia Kershaw

MA by Research Student (2020-2021)

Supervisor/s: Prof. Nadine Holdsworth



Olivia graduated from the BA Theatre and Performance Studies programme here at Warwick in 2020, having previously studied singing at the Royal Academy of Music and literature at the Tower Summer School, University of Oxford. Outside her studies, she is Early Stages teacher of drama, singing and dance at Stagecoach Performing Arts Kenilworth, where she works with the youngest pupils, aged 4-6. Olivia has also been involved with the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and has a background in acting, singing and musical theatre performance.


Olivia's MA research is based in the rapidly developing sphere of musical theatre studies and offers the first substantial study of Gothic musicals. It seeks to understand the cultural significance of what can be perceived as the 'Gothic turn' in contemporary musical theatre, exploring the continued emergence, proliferation and popularity of Gothic narratives, tropes and aesthetics in this medium. Using the lens of a 'postmodern Gothic' sensibility, the research interrogates the Gothic musical as a hybrid mode of sociopolitical commentary. It examines how popular understandings of Gothic combine with those of musical theatre, and how each may complement, expose or even problematize the stylistic conventions and internal politics of the other.

The project is primarily concerned with trends in mainstream, commercial musical theatre and focuses on three distinct 'mutations' of Gothic in 21st century musical theatre: romanticized Gothic, spoof Gothic and finally, Gothic reimaginings of 'classics' from the musical theatre canon. Case studies include The Phantom of the Opera, The Grinning Man and Young Frankenstein, as well as recent 'dark' revivals and appropriations of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

Olivia's research is supervised by Professor Nadine Holdsworth.


  • Histories of musical theatre and operetta
  • Musical revival and adaptation
  • Women in musical theatre, both on- and off-stage
  • The study and development of training methodologies for acting through song and dance
  • Theatre in Education (TiE) and children's hospital theatre
  • Arts for mental health and wellbeing


  • "The Land We Belong To Is Grand": Legacies of nostalgia, utopia and national identity in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (2020) - Undergraduate dissertation which considered the link between revivals of musical 'classics' and dialogues around national belonging in popular culture.
  • "A Haunted Nation: Oklahoma! and the nostalgic politics of theatrical revival" (2021) - Paper upcoming at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR), hosted by the University of Leeds.
  • Contribution to an archival research project and upcoming publication, Dash Arts: Documenting A Decade of Creativity (2018), exploring the company‚Äôs use of music in relation to interculturalism. This project was coordinated and supervised by Dr. Margaret Shewring and funded by Warwick's Undergraduate Research Support Scheme.
  • Olivia was longlisted in the Tower Poetry Prize (2013) and was subsequently invited to study English literature and creative writing at the biannual Tower Summer School, Christ Church College, Oxford in 2016. This culminated in the publication of an anthology, Flowers From The Dark (2017) edited by Alan Gillis and Olivia McCannon, Oxford University Press.