Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Past Events

Past Events in 2021/22:

Mourning Theatres: Pandemic Grief and Queer Performance

Fintan Walsh

Wednesday 3rd May 12pm-1.30pm on MS Teams

Grappling with extraordinary loss and its political denial, theatre and performance during the pandemic innovated forms and approaches to support the work of mourning. In particular, queer practices drew on their deep reservoirs of grief to make room for it in the bewildered present. This paper explores how some of this work intervened the social and cultural climate of the coronavirus pandemic, and how the pandemic enabled queer theatre and performance to reanimate and repurpose its own archives of loss.

Fat Performance (Studies) Today

Jussara Belchior, Magdalena Hutter, Gillie Kleiman

Wednesday 24th May 4pm-5.30pm on MS Teams

The Fat Performance Reader is to be an edited collection of original artistic and scholarly material discussing fat performance, which we define - for the moment - as performance whose meaning-making is both predicated on fatness and can speak into a conversation about fatness. In this talk, the three editors of this collection will discuss the origins of the project, its aspirations and limitations, and the key themes that have emerged through dialogue with contributors, as well as our individual perspectives on fat performance (studies). We will continue to unpick our understandings of fat performance and its relationship to the disciplines of performance studies and fat studies, unfolding our collaboration in public.


Jussara Belchior (Brazil)

Jussara Belchior is a fat ballerina. She also works as a choreographer, a collaborator in other artists’ projects and a researcher of practices and writings in contemporary dance. Her projects deal with fat people, fatness and non-normative bodies. She has a PhD degree in Live Arts. She is currently developing the CAIBA project (Catálogo Imaterial da Baleia - Whale Immaterial Catalogue), alongside that she is a part of the MANADA and the Escrita Performativa collectives. She is interested in poetics and politics of movement and positioning yourself through dance.

Magdalena Hutter (Germany/Canada)

Magdalena is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer. Her projects frequently deal with themes of belonging, ranging from documentary film to installations and interactive documentaries. In addition to her own projects, she also works as a DoP and consulting producer on other documentary films. She is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University in Montreal/Canada, doing research-creation about fatness in dance and developing frameworks for Fat ScreenDance.

Gillie Kleiman (United Kingdom)

Gillie Kleiman works with and in dance and choreography, creating performances, texts, events and pedagogical encounters. Gillie’s work has a persistent interest in both the figure and the activity of the non-professional, and many of her projects have involved participation of non-professional collaborators or of the audience; this was the topic of her PhD project (completed in 2019). In 2020, Gillie initiated a new cycle of thinking and working about fat and fatness. Alongside her artistic practice, she is Head of Higher Education at Dance City, an adviser to Jerwood Arts, a Trustee of People Dancing, and external examiner at the Danish National School of Performing Arts. She is a member of the trade union UVW-DCW and is an accredited trade union representative. Gillie lives and works in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 13 October 2021, 4.30-6.00 pm

Germany in the context of decolonisation

Speakers: Dr Pedzisai Maedza (Newton International Fellow-University of Warwick) & Dr Lisa Skwirblies (Post-Doc in Teaterwissenschaft, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich)

Red Flag Day: The duty to remember and the aesthetics of commemorative memory - Dr Pedzisai Maedza

Abstract: German colonisation of lands and people in what is today known as Namibia was effected through a war of conquest led by General Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha. From 1904 to 1908 German forces and the indigenous population fought a war that ended in what has been dubbed the first German genocide of the twentieth century. This war and genocide, which is sometimes called the forgotten genocide, left an estimated 80% of the Herero and 50% of the Nama population dead. Using the annual Red Flag Day commemorations as a case study this paper will trace how Herero communities have developed distinct public performance practices to remember, commemorate, contest and transmit the memory of this disavowed genocidal war. It will also suggest how the Red Flag Day can be read and understood as a cultural performance which both represents and shapes the memory of the past and the community’s relationship with the genocide, and its sense of self in the present?

Performing the Spirit of Bandung - Dr Lisa Skwirblies

Lisa Skwirblies (PhD), is a Post-doc researcher at the Theater Studies Department of the University of Munich on the ERC Project “T-Migrants". She holds a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick. In 2017 she was an Early Career Fellow at the IAS Warwick and between 2018 and 2020 held a Marie Sklodowska-Curie International Research Fellowship (“Horizon 2020”). Her research interests lie in the fields of theatre historiography, postcolonial theory, and their intersections. She is currently working on her forthcoming monograph Performing Empire. Theatre, Race, and the Colonial Culture of the German Empire, 1884-1913 (Palgrave 2022) and her second-book project European Stages of Decoloniality.

Abstract - This paper discusses the history of postcolonial student migration and the under-researched repertoire of decolonial protest performances in Cold War Germany. It shows how the recruitment of hundreds of African and Asian students in the mid-1950s to visit universities in the two Germanies led to political and performative interventions of the Global South students across the Iron Curtain and to political coalitions with the nascent West German student movement. From a specific theatre and performance studies approach, this article explores these decolonial protests through the lens of performance and argues for a new approach to protest culture, one that goes beyond static and reified conceptions and instead allows us to understand the immediate and material effects such protest techniques had for those protesting.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 24 Nov, 4.30-6.00 pm

Speakers: Chitra Sundaram (Department of Theatre & Performance, Goldsmiths College, London) & performer-researcher Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh

This seminar is being offered by dance-theatre practitioner and educator Chitra Sundaram (Goldsmiths, UK). It is part of a forthcoming series that Sundaram has conceived under the overall title 'The Politics of Choreographed Intimacies: Re-framing the beloved familiar'. Joining her from India, is a special guest artist Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh, performer, researcher and Prof of Practice, Literature and the Arts, KREA University, India.

Title: The Politics of Choreographed Intimacies

Dancing for Kings, ‘Nabobs’ and East India Company officers: Courtly Dance in pre-modern and cosmopolitan Southern India (17th-20th centuries).

If you can in advance, please look at the following to get a sense of the trajectory of work being undertaken:

Decolonising Dance History Project - a vtalk

Daughters of Pandanallur- The other story - an essay

BODY SUTRA- Is the dancing body celebrated or denied ? Body and the Law- a short talk

Abstract -

Dance from India has for long posited to the world its ancientness, its textual treasure trove of ‘hard evidence’, and, above all, its special relationship to Hinduism’s great gods as its signature and validating hallmarks. Therefore, and often, Indian dance is all too easily and simplistically understood, glorified or dismissed as ‘ancient religious dance’ i.e. nothing to do with the now; devoid of human urge or urgency; somehow all ‘pure’ and divine; somehow innocent of strategies and negotiations necessitated by the complex political context of foreign rule and intersectionality of morality, social hierarchy, caste, gender, creed, breadwinning and wealth; somehow unfree.

In this seminar, we eschew the selective, sanitised, ‘sacred history’ of Indian dance, and make an exciting departure into herstory: we inquire into previously forbidden territory and nature of its avatar as Sadir dance in pre-modern and colonial India. Here, it presents as sophisticated entertainment in the cosmopolitan courts of kings, big and small, and in salons of courtiers and monied traders, all of them sponsors of arts.

Dance is seen here as a celebration of the Eros – a love for life itself, notwithstanding its troubles. And amid the hustle and bustle of courtly life, where ‘foreign’ colonial era Company Officers were both inserted or invited, we will see how—through the use of social and performative ‘codes’—the staged performance of love and desire achieved its abiding underpinning of ‘intimacy’. And how the dancers had their laughs too! (Such semiotics is still the preserve of Indian classical dance. And that’s a whole other ball of wool that's come unspooled.)


Chitra Sundaram is a dance-theatre educator and researcher, an actor trainer, dramaturg, mentor,

and more infrequently now, a stage performer and choreographer. She is Associate Lecturer in the Department of Drama and Performance at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK.

Trained rigorously by the traditional masters of the Indian dance-theatre form Bharatanatyam, Chitra’s performance works, teaching and inquiry reflect her robust form-based questions as well as explorations in to other dance/theatre forms and their intellectual/aesthetic premises. Her critically acclaimed creations include: the subversively classical solo work ‘Moham –A Magnificent Obsession’ in bharatanatyam; the site-specific mixed-genres ensemble ‘Awaaz/Voice’ for Trafalgar Square festival; the social critique of ‘Sthreedom – The Good Wife’; a contemporary take on a grotesque Hindu myth in ‘Ahmas –The Immortal Sin a.k.a Skull’, commissioned by the Royal Opera House’s ROH 2 programme, which toured the UK with Soma Numa, and showed internationally. Chitra’s more traditional ‘Pashyamey –Behold Me!’ premiered at the South Bank Centre’s Alchemy Festival and was shortlisted for British Dance Edition (BDE). In the ‘80s, Chitra co-created and toured ‘Visions of Rhythm’ with South-African origin Corrine Bougaard (Founder, Union Dance Company), as one of the earliest “fusion” works in the UK.

Chitra’s research and teaching interests include the problems and potential of classical forms in cross -cultural and intergenerational transmission of cultural narratives; the effects on dance of the neo-nationalist project in India as post-truth ‘facts’ including its ‘classicism’ and ‘religiosity’ versus the 'proven aesthetic secularism of the texts invoked; the contemporary, western ‘realism’ and individual-based project of ‘authenticity’. Chitra was a long-time editor of Pulse, KadamUK’s South Asian dance (now also music) magazine, bridging academia, practitioner and dance aficionado, acquiring for Pulse critical international standing and subscription. Chitra was Trustee and Member Governing Council of the international dance certification body, the ISTD, a venerable110-year old institution of dance from across the genres and the world. Chitra strongly resisted, and still resists, the use of the term

‘Imperial’ as she is an anointed ISTD Fellow in recognition of her services. Chitra was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) years ago but has recently neglected to pay her dues in time,trusting automatic bank debit–and is wondering about renewal and what ‘Royal’ means or should mean to British colonials and post-colonials, and what disjointed individual protests may achieve herethat may be useful to others. Chitra has, in the meanwhile, accepted the honour of an MBE, an order of the British Empire Award for services to South Asian dance.

Dr . Swarnamalya Ganesh-

Swarnamalya is a combination of a performer with over 35 years of experience, a scholar of dance history as well as a trained academician in art practice and sociology. Her Ph.D dissertation was on “Research and Reconstruction of lost dance repertories of Early modern South India (NayakPeriod)”.In a pioneering effort she studied in-depth the history and sources involved in the lost performing traditions to reconstruct them. “From The Attic” is a performance-lecture-exhibition series based on her research. From collaborations with artistes of various genres to reflecting the multicultural historicity of dance and music in South India, FTA stands as a unique voice that speaks of inclusivity and plurality as inherent values of performing traditions. Jakkini, Sivalila, Gondhali, Perani are some of her reconstructed repertoires widely appreciated.

Her recent performances in the UK under the auspices of Akademi, European Tourto Prague, Vienna and Germany as well as the most recent Australian Arts Council tour to perform at Asia Topa brought excellent visibility to . During the pandemic, she continued to offer tutorials and lectures for student communities and worked with folk artiste families on Covid Relief. Swarnamalya was one among the six chosen Indian artistes on whom a movie was produced by Arts Quotient and India Foundation for the Arts called #BehindTheSeen.

Her further research interests include Sadiras the subaltern form of Bharatanatyam through gender, culture, society, stigma and political movements. Her first book was titled Nammai Marandarai Naam Marakkamattom (Tamil) based on her very successful stage production of the same title, from Silappadikaram from the POV of Madhavi, the danseuse. She researched to bring to light the history of repertoires in early 20th century Madras, under her production Dancing in the Parlour. Her more recent production Choreographing Society- a tryst with destiny, raises critical questions around inherent inequalities; identities, stigma and the legal frame striving to relieve democracy from it.

As a writer and thinker, some of her eminent contributions to critical theories on performance historycall for interrogation of postcolonial scholarship through her on-going project “Decolonising dance history”, where she develops new and experimental methods of writing performance histories; Decolonising Dance History Project, Notions of Classical in Bharatanatyam, Sex and Gender in Performance, Mired in Dravidian Politics, Womanity, Daughters of Pandanallur– the other story.



In her professorial capacity, she has designed and taught courses such as Past Performing Practices, Art as History, Women in Performance, Literature and Media that cover archival writing practices andperformance in the study of the body and culture as a lived experience. Her more recent addition has been a workshop-style course on ditties and dances of folk and tribal cultures from across the world titled “Or MufLeh”. She is also a sought after speaker on topics pertaining to Education, art and culture.



As a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow for Academic and Professional Excellence, Swarnamalya went to UCLA toteach and pursue postdoctoral research. She is trained in Indian and Middle Eastern music, epigraphy,history and archaeology. She has received prestigious awards and fellowships for her contributions including the recent KREA-FacultyResearch Fellowship for 2020-21. She is currently Professor of Practice (Literature & TheArts), KREA University, India. She is also the Director of Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance/ Performance and Indic Studies which works at providing education in Performing Arts. Ranga Mandira run asa community radio for the arts and also creates a platform for sustainable development for the hereditary artiste communities. She has served as a visiting faculty atSASTRA University, Madras University, and a guest faculty to Ashoka University, Bridgewater State University (Boston), and Flame University in India. Fellow for Academic and Professional Excellence, Swarnamalya went to UCLA tteach and pursue postdoctoral research. She is trained in Indian and Middle Eastern music, epigraphy, history and archaeology. She has received prestigious awards and fellowships for her contributions including the recent KREA-FacultyResearch Fellowship for 2020-21. She is currently Professor of Practice (Literature & TheArts), KREA University, India. She is also the Director of Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance/ Performance and Indic Studies which works at providing education in Performing Arts. Ranga Mandira run asa community radio for the arts and also creates a platform for sustainable development for the hereditary artiste communities. She has served as a visiting faculty atSASTRA University, Madras University, and a guest faculty to Ashoka University, Bridgewater State University (Boston), and Flame University in India.


Research Seminar, Wednesday 10th March 2021, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: Re-membering assembly

Speakers: Louise Owen (Birkbeck, University of London) and Marilena Zaroulia (Central School of Speech and Drama)

Abstract: Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically compromised the possibilities and contours of collective assembly in the theatre. This jointly authored paper explores the conditions of theatrical assembly in the times we currently confront through analysis of Ben Duke’s In a Nutshell (The Place, 2020). Filmed in the auditorium of the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, In a Nutshell stages a series of recollections about theatregoing to a future audience of people for whom live theatre has ceased to be a reality. Though a monologue in form and function, Ben Duke’s piece and its interpellation of its imagined audience is premised on a notion of and commitment to theatre as a dialogic space across time and distance, in which the bodies of spectators play a critical role. Our response to the performance is based on a socially distanced viewing of the performance we undertook on 22 October 2020, in which we watched the piece simultaneously on YouTube while present together on Zoom. We bring our reflections on the work and its reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic into relation with this experience of spectatorship. We ask how the interrupted dramaturgies of both the piece and our socially distanced spectatorship re-invoke acts of collective assembly in the theatre, rendered temporarily out of bounds.

Biog: Louise Owen is Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research examines contemporary theatre and performance in terms of economic change and modes of governance. Her writing has been published in various edited collections and in the journals Performance Research, frakcija, Contemporary Theatre Review, and TDR. She co-convenes the London Theatre Seminar, and is director of Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery and co-director of the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre.

Biog: Marilena Zaroulia is Lecturer in Performance Arts at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. Her research focuses on theatre, performance and the cultural politics of post-1989 Europe. She is the co-editor of Performances of Capitalism, Crises and Resistance: Inside/Outside Europe (Palgrave 2015). Her work has appeared in various international journals and edited collections. She is one of the editors of Studies in Theatre and Performance and has just finished co-editing a special issue for the journal, entitled 'Towards Decentring Theatre and Performance studies' (spring 2021).

Past Events in 2020/21:

Book(s) Launch, Wednesday 14th October 2020, 4.30-6pm (online)

During this session we will celebrate the fact that researchers in Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick will have published five monographs in the six months from July 2020:

Nicholas Drofiak - Irusan: or, Canting for Architects, gta Verlag / eth Zürich

Milija Gluhovic - Theory for Theatre Studies: Memory, Bloomsbury

Nadine Holdsworth - English Theatre and Social Abjection: A Divided Nation, Palgrave

Silvija Jestrovic - Performances of Authorial Presence and Absence: The Author Dies Hard, Palgrave

Nicolas Whybrow - Contemporary Art Biennials in Europe: the work of Art in the Complex City, Bloomsbury

Each author will give a brief introduction to their book outlining the things that inspired them and the central arguments they make. There will be time to ask questions and to raise a virtual glass to this achievement.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 2nd December 2020, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: Disrupting negations of performativity: Motility, race and space in academic contexts

Speaker: Praveen Sewgobind

Abstract: Theorists Sara Ahmed and Fred Moten have both explored instances and processes of the negation of performativity. Moten’s profound assessment of nonperformance with respect to black bodies and Ahmed’s critical intervention as regards the non-performativity of diversity politics powerfully indicate how bodies of colour can arguably be desubjectified as they appear in spaces dominated by whiteness. My paper explores the bodily, spatial, and ocular conditions that give rise to the ubiquitous practice of bodies of colour undergoing ontological resistance from a racial visual regime that prohibits such bodies to become as motile as white bodies are. To do this, I will critically analyse academic spaces that often may seem to be “in transition” due to the promises and politics of diversity and inclusion efforts. Yet, as I will show, it will take more than altering the optics of an institution to counter the solid and insidious structures of whiteness. Phenomenological accounts as well as analyses of relevant academic texts from Fred Moten, Sara Ahmed, Shannon Sullivan, and Linda Martín Alcoff will elucidate some of the potential and strategic avenues in order to come to terms with and possibly even overcome the visual and bodily regimes emanating from the violence of hierarchized racialization of bodies of colour.

Biog: Dr. Praveen Sewgobind is an activist-academic working to deepen and complicate Critical Race Theory with a decolonial lens, focusing on the embodiment of white racism and social constructs of racial formation in the Netherlands. In the academic year 2020-2021 he will be performing research on racism in the Netherlands at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. More specifically, the project titled “Veiled Taxonomies and Ventriloquized Grammar: Unlocking Cultural Racism in the Netherlands” will investigate the workings of “ventriloquized racism,” i.e. racism that is packaged and disseminated as non-racist discourse but functions to centralise and uplift whiteness and Dutchness in the Netherlands. From September 2020 onwards, Praveen will organise and host the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis Critical Race Theory Seminar series (

Title: Stealing form my ancestors: the performance of restitution & reparation in European museum spaces

Speaker: JC Niala

Abstract: This paper takes its cue from Mwazulu Diyabanza, who was filmed in a viral video seizing African artefacts from the Musée du Quai-Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris, observing it as an act of attempted restitution. It also unpacks the removal of the Colston statue in Bristol as enacted reparation. Both of these protests were political and theatrical. They sit in direct contrast to an action carried out by a Nigerian man in the Museum of London who in frustration shook a case holding Benin Bronzes on loan from the British Museum, in the ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ gallery, whilst exclaiming that the artefacts should be returned home. It was a spontaneous moment that received no media attention.

Drawing on work that theorizes the use of drama as a tool to transform conflict, I examine these grassroots protests in the light of Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre. Furthermore, theatre as a tool of resistance has been described by Ngugi wa Thiong’o with the powerful example of Kenyan people’s theatre. I argue that these protests are an invitation, a call to the keepers of the legacy of the British empire to enter into the dramatization of ongoing forms of colonial expression in order to create a break from them and perform a decolonised future.

Biog: JC Niala is a writer and researcher of African and English material cultural heritage. She is currently working on a book entitled A Loveliness of Ladybirds which was shortlisted for the Nan Shephard nature writing prize in 2019. JC is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Warwick.

Research Seminar, Wednesday 20th January 2021, 4.30-6pm (online)

Title: On border, identity and performance: an artist’s reflection from the field

Speaker: Taiwo Afolabi, University of Regina, Canada

Abstract: Migration is essential to human existence in this present ‘postnormal times’ characterized by chaos, contradictions, global displacement and neoliberal realities etc. From voluntary to forced migration, border shifts as living and non-living things move, and it is constantly being re/negotiated. Beyond physical or territorial border navigated in migration, cultures and arts transverse boundaries because people move with cultural practices, beliefs and traditions. For instance, as migrants’ cultural practices and art forms trans-border, culture becomes a mobile apparatus that constantly changes and shifts from one form to another. While researchers have largely focused on themes such as the relationship between border and governance, migration, securitization, historicity, visa regimes, borderland and culture, there is still knowledge base around the intersection of border and identity within performance discourse. In the presentation, I explore how experiences of migration and im/mobility find expression in my artistic practice. I investigate the notions of ‘shifting identities’ , ‘imagined communities’ to better understand root and routes and how arts conceive, perform and represent border in Africa. My reflection focuses on my artistic practices in Sub-Saharan Africa from a practitioner’s perspective with the inquiry: in what ways does border perform, (dis)connect, alter, shift, dissolve and (re)imagine identity? As an artist-researcher of African descent, my reflection on border, identity and race is both personal and political. Finally, in this presentation, I discuss the intersection of arts and border as “an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense” .

Biog: Taiwo Afolabi, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He is an applied theatre practitioner with a decade of experience working across a variety of creative and community contexts in over dozen countries across four continents. His practice and research interests include education, decolonization, socially-engaged creative practice, and research ethics. He is the founding artistic director of Theatre Emissary International, Nigeria and a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Title: Performance Therapy and Therapeutic Performance: Theorising Creative Healing Amongst Displaced Persons in Daudu, Benue State

Speaker: Shadrach Teryila UKUMA, Department of Theatre Arts, Benue State University, Makurdi - Nigeria

Abstract: This paper examines conceptualizations around the healing function of theatre and performance. It recognizes the various strands of creative art therapies including dance therapy, drama therapy, music therapy and art therapy, as well as sociodrama. Using the experience with victims of violent conflict suffering collective trauma in Daudu, who use cultural performances to negotiate their wellbeing, the paper attempts to conceptualize their holistic performative experience other than the isolated performance genres as commonly found in literature on the subject. The paper goes further to argue for the inherent transformative aesthetic quality of cultural performances. Using descriptive and performance ethnography approaches in qualitative research, the paper examines the self-created cultural performances mechanism for coping with collective trauma experiences in order to arrive at fresh theoretical considerations. It concludes that culture is at the centre of human actions and reactions, and within it there exists a pool of resources for solving societal problems, just as such resources can indeed be triggered internally. It observes that there should be a limit as to where concept affects contexts and vice versa. The paper recommends that context specific thinking should guide both discourse and praxis in engaging societal problems and solving them, especially as it is still within the same cultural matrix that these problems are created and as such approaches from a different cultural background might not work well.

Biog: Shadrach Teryila UKUMA is lecturer at Benue State University, Makurdi – Nigeria, in the Department of Theatre Arts. He recently obtained a PhD with a thesis titled “Cultural Performances: A Study on Managing Collective Trauma amongst Displaced Persons in Daudu Community, Benue State, Nigeria”, at the SDG Graduate School “Performing Sustainability: Cultures and Development in West Africa” hosted by the Universities of Hildesheim, Germany; Maiduguri, Nigeria; and Cape Coast, Ghana. His research interests include Cultural Performance, Transformative Aesthetics, Creative Peacebuilding, Cultural Entrepreneurship and Leadership, and Performance Therapy.Shadrach is a member of the African Theatre Association (AfTA), Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), and Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP).

If you want to find out more about these events, please contact Nadine Holdsworth (

SCUDD Conference: Summer 2021

At the Standing Conference for University Drama Departments (SCUDD) annual conference on Zoom in July 2020, it was announced that Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick would be hosting the SCUDD conference in July 2021. This conference is being organised by Dr David Coates. Further details about the event will be released in January 2021, but please don't hesitate to get in touch with David if you have any queries about this event

Wednesday 27th May 4.30-6.00 (via Microsoft Teams)

Speaker: Jim Davis
Paper: Theatre and Visual Culture: Interpreting Visual Representations of Spectators as Evidence

I am currently in the early stages of researching for a monograph on the visual representation of theatrical spectators in the nineteenth century. This paper will focus on three representations of theatrical spectators by the French Artist Leopold Boilly and the 'referential dilemmas', to use Christopher Balme's term, encountered in assessing their value as evidence.

Speaker: Pat Smyth
Paper: Remediating History: From Romantic Drama to Virtual Reality

This presentation looks at the representation of history in Alexandre Dumas’ sensationally popular drama of life and death in the Renaissance court, Henri III et sa cour of 1829. I look at the strategies Dumas used to create the sensation of an eyewitness experience and at how his play was subsequently remediated in painting, film, television and virtual reality.

Spring 2020

Processes, Participations and Networks of Engagement

Wednesday 15th January, 17.00-18.30, G56

Speaker: Max Dean

Title: Ergodic Literature: Process Drama for the Information Age

“Nothing is going to remain the way it is. Let us, in the present, study the past, so as to invent the future.”[1]

A defining characteristic of Process Drama as a medium has always been its participatory nature. The narratives of Process Dramas are not predetermined by a writer or a director and enacted for an audience physically separate from the narrative, but rather are written/created through a process of collaborative engagement between all those present.

Paulo Freire, (an Educational Theorist extremely influential on Process Drama) highlighted the importance participation in a process has within an educational context in order for people to engage in education as ‘Subjects’: those who know and can act, as opposed to being ‘Objects’: which are known and acted upon.[2] Whilst this blurring of the barrier between actor and spectator historically was utilised in pursuit of Process Drama’s objectives to engender critical consciousness and reflection in its participants; this blurring of traditional differentiations between audience and participant is occurring across different mediums in the 21st century, such as journalism, politics and media. This phenomenon is referred to as Ergodic literature by Espen J. Aarseth in his book Cybertext—Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Aarseth states that: “In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text.”[3]

Whilst participatory engagement in 21st century forms maybe increasing, a rise in dichotic social discourse, populist ideologies and increasing economic disparity can also be seen: exactly the opposite of what Freire and Boal would have espoused. Augusto Boal argued that for theatre to be a weapon for liberation, “It is necessary to create appropriate theatrical forms. Change is imperative”.[4]

This presentation will explore how my practice as research seeks to utilise this rise of ergodic literature as a form of participation across wider society to create an ‘appropriate theatrical form’ for the 21st Century, utilising Process Drama methodologies in pursuit of “conscientização” combined with the popular 21st Century medium of digital games.


Speaker: Bobby Smith

Title: Lessons from Rwanda/Navigating Silence

Rwanda's recovery following the genocide in 1994, in which around one million people were murdered, has led the Rwandan government and global media to portray the country as a 'beacon of hope' from which we can learn how to respond to trauma and prevent violence in the future. In July 2019, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the genocide, I travelled to Rwanda to research theatre and peacebuilding as part of the early stages of a project involving practitioners in the UK, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. The aim of this project is to create networks of learning and exchange between these countries. Initially struck by the signs of economic and social development despite the horrific events of 1994, I was confronted by a range of silences which began to destabilise the narrative of Rwanda as a 'beacon of hope'. To navigate these silences I focus on three events: Kwibuka, the annual month-long commemoration of the genocide; selected performances staged as part of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali; and activities related to a Theatre for Development project. Whereas silence is understood by some as a powerful aesthetic choice, as well as a valid response to traumatic events, this paper demonstrates that in Rwanda silence is often imposed and serves the current government’s attempts to maintain power and the refusal of certain international actors to engage with legacies of genocide. Conversely, at other times, the imposition of silence can more clearly and powerfully demonstrate legacies of genocide and violence. In this sense, silence can be considered as productive, highlighting continued injustices – albeit accidentally. In attempting to navigate the silences I encountered, it became clear that the positionality of the spectator shapes how silences are read, and how much ‘reading between the lines’ is possible. A complicated picture thus emerges in relation to theatre and performance in post-genocide Rwanda, which throws into question what might be learnt by practitioners and researchers elsewhere in the world. I therefore argue we need to resist essentialising and simplistic representations of Rwanda as a place of hope offering lessons to follow when it comes to the role of the arts in fostering peace and addressing conflict. Instead, I suggest those of us involved in theatre and performance can learn a range of other lessons. In particular, we must consider whether silences in relation to current contexts of violence mirror the silence that enabled the Rwandan genocide to take place.

[1] Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, Pluto Press, London, 2000, pg ix

[2] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin Classics, Random House, London, 2017, pg 10

[3] Espen J. Aarseth, Cybertext—Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Johns Hopkins University Press. (1997) pg 1

[4] Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, Pluto Press, London, 2000, pg xxiii

Spring 2019

Wednesday 6th March, 16.30-18.00, G56

Speaker: Fintan Walsh

Title: Viral Hamlet: History, Memory, Kinship

A chorus of overlapping voices announce the opening of Dickie Beau’s Re-Member Me (Almeida, 2017-). Resounding like a ghostly incantation, the words evoke a séance in which the voices of deceased or long-standing players in UK theatre are conjured in the present, to query the compulsory invocation of the past. These figures’ comments have been cut from recorded interviews – some found, some conducted by Beau himself – as they reflect on their careers, in particular the experience of playing Hamlet or watching the drama performed. These observations circle around the largely forgotten and final performance of Scottish actor Ian Charleson (1949-90) as Hamlet in Richard Eyre’s production at the National Theatre in 1989, a role he played while dying of AIDS related illness. In Beau’s production, the ghost’s injunction ‘remember me’ reverberates more as question than a demand. It queries the same words uttered in Robert Icke’s production of Hamlet, which it was originally programmed to precede, and ripples across the theatre industry and British culture, including the nation-wide events which surrounded it to mark the fiftieth anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967.

This paper examines how Beau’s production finds form in Charleson’s illness, to elaborate a dramaturgy of contagion that insists the past infects the present. It considers how Beau’s production asks us to consider how certain forms of cultural remembrance and production operate by wilfully forgetting or inoculating against others, in particular queer histories. Beau’s approach offers compelling ways for thinking more broadly about medical and cultural interplay, by demonstrating the latter’s capacity to translate death, disappearance and amnesia into life-sustaining engagements with history, memory and kinship production.

Fintan Walsh is Reader in Theatre and Performance in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, Co-Director of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, and Director of Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS). His books include Queer Performance and Contemporary Ireland: Dissent and Disorientation (2016), Theatre & Therapy (2013), and Male Trouble: Masculinity and the Performance of Crisis (2010) and the forthcoming Theatres of Contagion: Transmitting Early Modern to Contemporary Performance (Bloomsbury 2019). He is Senior Editor of Theatre Research International.

Speaker: Emine Fişek

Title: Remembering Istanbul: Theatre, Memory and Gentrification

What is the relationship between theatre and memory in contemporary Turkey? In a national context historically dominated by centrally funded state and municipal theatre institutions, recent years have witnessed the proliferation of “alternative theatres”: small, independent ventures that draw on a rich genealogy of political and experimental theatre and seek new forms of theatrical expression. Political developments, meanwhile, have challenged the foundations of Turkey’s modernization project and produced new frameworks for interpreting the Turkish past, from rethinking the memory of the country’s military coups to re-framing its Ottoman history. How has alternative theatre responded to these developments? In this presentation, I approach this question by focusing on how alternative theatre has addressed the relationship between urban transformation and public memory: while some performances examine the memories of dispossession and exile that haunt Istanbul’s formerly non-Muslim neighbourhoods, others focus on contemporary waves of Syrian migration to interrogate Turkey’s historical identity as a “host” country, its changing migratory regime, and the relationship of migration to patterns of gentrification. Alternative theatre’s connection to gentrification is also a question of site-specificity, as these stages are often located in neighborhoods that have themselves been subject to layers of urban transformation. Theatre, I argue, is part of the broader coterie of voices that seek to participate in the re-branding of “old” Istanbul, and alternative theatre is an exemplary site to consider the ambivalent and ever-vulnerable participation of arts practices in the broader transformations of this city in the twenty-first century.

Emine Fişek is Assistant Professor in the Department of Western Languages and Literatures at Boğaziçi University. She is the author of Aesthetic Citizenship: Immigration and Theater in Twenty-First-Century Paris (Northwestern University Press, 2017) and Theatre & Community (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2019). Her articles on the relationship between immigration, theatre and civil society in contemporary France have appeared in Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, Text and Performance Quarterly and French Cultural Studies and she is currently developing her oldest research interest on political theatre in modern Turkey.

Wednesday 16th January, 16.30-18.00, G56

Speaker: Nick Drofiak

Title: Tongues, Branches, Red Fish: Relating with things in repertoires of identity in the village of Baklaniha.

Baklaniha is situated at 64°N on the Enisej river in the Russian Far North. While the Enisej is a major shipping artery (linking Russia’s southern cities and railway with the mining-metallurgical centre of Noril’sk and, ultimately, the Kara Sea and northern route to the Atlantic), the region is sparsely populated and Baklaniha has a population today of approximately thirty persons. This liminality, in combination with the failure of the village’s electricity generator (and hence communications and water supply) led to a regional government attempt to close the village in 2008, fended off in part due to a local perception of the village as a specifically indigenous settlement. Roughly half of the population identify as members of the Ket community, and are either descended from or are themselves survivors of two previous forcible relocations from sites more remotely located on tributaries of the Enisej. Progressively restricted access to significant cultural landscapes has been accompanied by a correspondingly decreased presence of physically portable artefacts upon the ongoing possibility of whose encounter collective identities may be said to be predicated – artefacts among which I count the Ket language, now considered moribund (while known to varying degrees by a handful of older residents in Baklaniha, it is the language of first resort in no social situation and its use is a conscious performance). The region’s long history as a site of exile means that there is no resident, Ket-identifying or otherwise, who has not some complex experience of the relationship between a now inaccessible territory (distant or disappeared, remembered or imaginatively constructed) and a language or register of speech with which it is associated, itself fading. It is this possibility of exploring the roles played by languages (including attitudes toward language use and change) and geographies – each understood to be both culturally constructed and agentive – in the consolidation and exchange of cultural memories and identities that initially suggested Baklaniha as the site of the research project “Performing indigenous identities, memory and belonging in the Russian Far North”. The presentation will set out these inceptive motivations – in terms of the project’s thematic focus, methodology and intended practical outputs – and the current process of their reappraisal and change as a result of recent fieldwork. The research seminar is an opportunity to receive feedback on the narratives emerging so far, and the various potential next stages for the investigation suggested by them.

Speaker: Laurens De Vos, University of Amsterdam

Title: GOING HOME. An analysis of the history of the homecoming

What is home? This is the central question of my research project that will primarily focus on the motif of the homecoming, and in most cases the estrangement that emerges from the disruption of old constellations. Does one get back to one’s family, or to one’s home country? And is the former a more intimate reflection of what is at stake on a more political level, i.e. that of the nation? Home is inextricably bound up with one’s identity. Can we conceive of a history of the homecoming that reflects or challenges the poetics of its own time? From Agamemnon’s homecoming in Aeschylos’ Oresteia over Kafka’s Heimkehr to Pinter’s enigmatic play, coming home has long been a recurring theme that has intrigued playwrights and authors. But in many cases, home does not offer the comfort and protection that it has gained in the bourgeois society of the 18th century. Around the turn of the 19th century, with the emergence of symbolism and psychoanalysis, the homecoming gets an uncanny interpretation. In line with Freud’s essay on ‘das Unheimliche’, what is felt to be home amounts to the return of the repressed, resulting in the uncomfortable feeling of familiar alienation. This is most poignantly made explicit by the entrance of death, as in Maeterlinck’s The Intruder. In recent times, the theme of returning home after warfare is again much in the foreground, and again it is no place to relax. Soldiers return with what is now called PTSS, and cannot integrate in their society anymore. Once more, ‘home’ has become an estranged place. Yet there is another side of the coin to this phenomenon. A homecoming always works in two ways. Apart from the person coming home, there are the ones left behind – the core family, or the nation – who await the former’s arrival positively, negatively or indifferently. Thirdly, homecoming is not always a return to a familiar place. In search of a new home, refugees and migrants leave behind their old homes and for some time will have to call a most unfamiliar place home. Also for those staying home, the arrival of newcomers contributes to the estrangement of a familiar environment. One of the issues in my research is in what way the idea of ‘home’ changes because of growing migration and influence from other cultures colouring European societies and how this is reflected in contemporary theatre.

Autumn 2018

Interdisciplinary PhD Panel

Wednesday 28th November, 16.30-18.00, G56

Speakers: Theo Aiolfi and Julia Evangelista

Charting the populist repertoire and analysing political performances: an introduction to the stylistic approach to populism

Theo Aiolfi

From Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro, from Pablo Iglesias to Luigi Di Maio, the global rise of political actors that bypass mainstream political rules has been crystallised within both academia and the media into the nebulous concept of populism. Appearing on both sides of the political spectrum and defying most attempts to pin its nature down, populism has simultaneously been called a discourse, a strategy and a thin ideology, among others. In this paper, I will provide a brief introduction to the stylistic approach to populism which is located at the intersection of politics and performance studies. Initially coined by Moffit, I seek in this work to showcase the productive insights that can be gained from a more sustained interdisciplinary collaboration with performance studies. Borrowing in particular from Taylor and Schechner, I define the populist style as a repertoire of three performative clusters: performances of identity, performances of transgression and performances of urgency. After developing each of these three ideal-typical categories, I will then discuss the complex issue of methodology and make the case for an adaptation of Pavis’s performance analysis to political performances in general, and to populist performances in particular.

Performing decolonisation through carnival on the streets of Rio de Janeiro

Julia Evangelista

This research is concerned with the role of cultural participation of the ‘mad’ in challenging fixed notions of space and identity created by a legacy of colonisation in Brazil. Crucial to challenging such notions is the ability to blur the lines between two spaces that have conventionally been kept apart: ‘asylum’ and ‘street’. This paper deals specifically with the role of public performance – mediated through the rituals of carnival – that are created in the ‘asylum’ but then taken to the ‘street’. In taking these performances to the street, the excluded reaffirm their right to occupy symbolically important parts of the city, and in doing so create opportunities to challenge fixed notions of their own identity imposed from those on the outside looking in, and re-build notions of their own sense of self-empowerment and self-worth from the inside looking out. Today, such processes have become even more urgent in the context of Brazil where political and economic crisis has threatened to reverse advances in the field of mental health that began with psychiatric reform in the 1990s. These reforms sought to counterpose the homogenic western psychiatric model centred on hospitalization, isolation and institutionalization of the ‘mad’ away from ‘normal’ society. The reversal of these reforms risks escalating social divisions further as Brazil sees a revival of colonial ideologies fuelled by an increasingly divisive political rhetoric that values white European cultures over and above the many diverse cultures of Brazil.

This paper sets out initial findings that demonstrate how the project Loucura Suburbana (Suburban Madness) resists such oppressive contexts. It does so by engaging ‘mad’ and ‘normal’ together in the making of carnival that leads to public performances in symbolically important public spaces of Rio de Janeiro.

What is Research Impact?

Wednesday 10th October, 16.30-18.00, G56.

Speakers: Nadine Holdsworth and Yvette Hutchison

Research impact is an increasingly important aspect of an academic’s career and this session is designed to explore what it is, why it matters and what it might look like. We will talk through some of the practical considerations that come into play when trying to make research impactful. We will explore ways to establish research collaborations and networks. We will consider different examples of impact and how we might capture and evidence examples of research impact. To illustrate this discussion we will draw on two impact case studies being worked up in the Theatre and Performance Studies Department – we will look at the language around impact, offer some insights into how impact might be assessed as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and share some of the ways that we are talking and writing about our research to demonstrate impact.

The Royal Navy Theatre Association: Heritage and Invented Traditions
Nadine Holdsworth, University of Warwick

I have recently completed a research collaboration with the Royal Navy Theatre Association (RNTA) that lasted over five years as part of a wider project on amateur theatre in England. This research entailed an extensive period of primary research embedded within the RNTA community that included observation of rehearsals, attending productions, committee meetings, interviews with key personnel and serving as the RNTA’s festival adjudicator in 2016. The issues I have been exploring range around ideas of cultural value; heritage and traditions; places of performance and the relationship between labour and performance. In this talk I will outline how this research has been conceived and framed as an impact project and what issues have arisen around planning for and capturing diverse forms of impact (Individual, group, institutional, societal) and what strategies have been successful and not so successful.

Networking and performing on and off-line, in and out of Africa: African Women Playwright Network
Yvette Hutchison, University of Warwick

I am currently working on analysing research I have conducted through the African Womens’ Playwright Network that SA film and playwright Amy Jephta and I set up in 2015. In this paper I set out to analyse and compare online and live networking, as spaces for artistic and critical engagement both within Africa and beyond. It will explore the contexts, benefits, limits and potentialities of technologies in shaping creative and professional networks, particularly from the perspective of African gendered identity construction and performance. I draw particularly on David White and Alison Le Cornu’s (2013) new typology for online engagement, which analyses online behaviours as being of a digital resident and/ or visitor; and the significance of these patterns of preference for different platform usage when networking; and Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (2012) use of indigenous research methodologies.