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Research Strategy

Research Strategy for Theatre and Performance Studies

Theatre and Performance Studies places its research focus on the complex ways performance(s) interact in the public sphere, producing as well as representing myriad modes of social practice, aesthetic expression, and political intervention. Our research is transnational, collaborative and interdisciplinary, and follows new directions in historical studies as well as contemporary performance trajectories. Our research projects are both collaborative among colleagues and individual. As a department, we are committed to theoretically informed research that looks outward beyond the academy into a larger arena to see how performances influence - or intervene in - public perceptions or public policy. We have identified five major (but not mutually exclusive) strands running through our research programmes.


Staff are deeply involved in scholarship that re-examines the social stratifications among various forms of culture—elite, middlebrow, popular, and media-based. Performance has always oscillated between these characterizations, and has been a vital part of the debates about what constitutes meaningful distinctions, and how performances align themselves in relation to these categories. Colleagues are working on popular entertainments of the nineteenth century (Jim Davis), Renaissance/Early Modern Festival Research (Margaret Shewring), the Eurovision Song Contest (Milija Gluhovic), twentieth and twenty-first century popular theatre practitioners (Nadine Holdsworth), the role of festivals in South Africa in negotiating contested identities and histories (Yvette Hutchison), spy thrillers and famous spy cases as performances within mass culture, and reconceptualisations of the avant-garde (James Harding). Much of this research raises interesting issues about contemporary spectatorship and what may or may not constitute a/the public. It is wide-ranging and asks important questions about the traditional divisions between elite and popular culture; the denigration of mass culture; the complex ideological function of culture; audiences and efficacy; national imaginings and cultural practices in addition to transnational formations.


A number of colleagues participate in the interdisciplinary terrain of urban studies. Whether analysing how artworks present themselves as a means by which to navigate and plot the city through walking, play, and cultural memory as Nicolas Whybrow does in relation to key European cities such as Berlin, Vienna and Venice, or looking at conceptual approaches to space, identity and community in different contexts of crises as does Silivja Jestrovic in relation to Belgrade, Berlin, New York, Sarejevo, and Toronto, urban space is saturated with performances that negotiate democratic practices. Susan Haedicke’s long-term research on street theatre and public performance interventions is key to this research strand as is Michael Pigott’s investigation of the use of video projection in urban spaces as a playful and subversive intervention into architecture and our everyday relationship with the city. Department collaboration with Jawaharlal Nehru University in the past two years has meant that Delhi has been added to the mix of urban performance research considered at Warwick. As a body of work, we are attempting to use performance analysis methods appropriate to cityscapes as a way of foregrounding the construction of cities not just in terms of materiality but also in terms of the symbolic, interactional, and imaginative ‘building’ processes of theatre and performance.


The School has a longstanding commitment to international research and collaboration, reflected in its diverse staff (hailing from three continents and five countries) and also in its interrogation of the changing nature of globalization, transnational migration, national transformations or reconfigurations, and cultural translation and exchange. Connections abound between Yvette Hutchison’s research on performance in post-apartheid South Africa, Nadine Holdsworth’s work on theatre, nation and national identities, Milija Gluhovic’s theorization of the ‘New Europe’, Silvija Jestrovic’s examination of performance in the context of exile, Jim Davis’s study of international exchange and communication networks between Britain and Australia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Janelle Reinelt’s work on the transnational public sphere. Other international collaborations include the Eurovision Song Contest Network (Gluhovic) and a collaboration with Australian colleagues on transnational exchanges between Australian and British performers 1850-1950 (Davis).


As the twenty-first century continues to magnify the theatricality of every facet of ordinary life, the necessity to probe our daily routines and heightened experiences becomes more pressing for our discipline. Staff have embraced creative strategies of lived experience as performances—Tim White is studying food cultures and the social, cultural and aesthetic provocations of the restaurant as a site of performance while Susan Haedicke is embarking on a project that brings artists and gardeners together. In research that reaches back to the past and forward into the future, Yvette Hutchison studies the role of personal and collective memory in the revision of archives, monuments, and public space in relation to how these are being used to forge identities in the New South Africa. Among our historical studies, Margaret Shewring investigates Renaissance Festivals on land and water as places of exchange in the daily life of certain elite and popular audiences. Research conducted under this banner pays minute attention to the way humans fashion their everyday behaviours as performances.


A number of our staff are committed to creative research through practice, and their research-led teaching also informs the curriculum and our pedagogy. Several staff are involved in professional dramaturgy (Susan Haedicke and Silvija Jestrovic) and Nicolas Whybrow’s creative practice with walking and mapping cities has been conducted both as teaching experiments and as scholarly performance writing projects. Tim White, with interests in design and dance, also works with music in performance, and in particular with the practice of listening. Michael Pigott works with video and sound, which informs both his research into multimedia installation and performance, and his teaching methods.

Emeritus Professor Baz Kershaw is a leading practice-as-research exponent whose contributions continue to inform and enrich our work in this area.

These research priorities are also evidenced in a continual and substantial range of monographs, refereed articles, book chapters, and conference papers. Several of our staff are editors of journals and book series as well.