Skip to main content

Dr. Anna Harpin

Profile picture

Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance

Tel: +44 (0)24 765 23021

Email: A dot R dot Harpin at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room F03
Milburn House
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7HS


Anna Harpin joined the University of Warwick in January 2015 as Associate Professor of Theatre. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2009 and then took up a lectureship at the University of Exeter in 2010. Her research explores post-war British, Irish, and North American theatre, film, and graphic fiction. She is particularly concerned with the cultural representation of madness, trauma, and pain. Alongside her academic work Anna is the co-artistic director of her theatre company, Idiot Child, with whom she works as a writer and director. In addition to this Anna works as a freelance director. Anna is of one the editors of the Routledge journal Studies in Theatre and Performance and, along with Philip Hager and Gareth White, convenes the ‘Performance, Identity, Community’ working group at TaPRA. Her research has been supported by the AHRC and she has published in number of journals including Contemporary Theatre Review, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory and Performance Research. Her recent publications include ‘Broadmoor Performed: A Theatrical Hospital’ in The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities, Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics with Helen Nicholson (RHUL), and Performance, Madness, Psychiatry: Isolated Acts with Juliet Foster Cambridge).


Research interests

Anna’s academic work is particularly concerned with questions of politics, representation, and non-normative psychological experiences. More specifically she is interested in the cultural politics of madness and trauma. In this regard her research intersects with psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and philosophy. She is concerned to examine alternatives to biomedical understandings of mental life and, through her research, explores how literature, theatre, and film might offer particularly valuable means of re-articulating what one might call madness or ‘mental illness’. Her forthcoming monograph with Routledge, Disordered: Madness and Cultural Representation, considers how literary and theatrical works constitute a writing back to power against the dominant orthodoxies of psychiatric thinking and practices. Through close analyses of graphic fiction, theatre, and film Anna illuminates the manners in which artists have sought to represent madness, psychiatry, and care and considers the political and artistic legacies of such works. In addition to this work Anna, along with Juliet Foster (Cambridge), has recently completed an AHRC funded exploration into the history of performance in British psychiatric hospitals and asylums. Emerging out of this project she recently completed a book chapter on the history of theatre in Broadmoor Hospital. Alongside this primary area of current research Anna has just coedited a book with Professor Helen Nicholson about the politics of participation and performance entitled, Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics. This volume seeks to better understand how performance and participation might help sharpen our notion of politics, action, and inaction.


Selected publications


My forthcoming publications include a monograph, Disordered: Madness and Cultural Representation (2018) and a book chapter entitled ‘Dirty Realism’ in Trish Reid (ed) The Theatre of Anthony Neilson (2017).


▪ Anna Harpin and Helen Nicholson (eds), Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics (London: Palgrave, 2016)

▪ Anna Harpin, ‘Broadmoor Performed: A Theatrical Hospital’ in Anne Whitehead and Angela Woods (eds), The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities (Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

▪ Anna Harpin and Juliet Foster (eds), Madness, Performance, Psychiatry: Isolated Acts (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014)

▪ 'Revisiting the Puzzle Factory: Cultural Representations of Psychiatric Asylums' in Interdisciplinary Science Review, special issue on 'New Directions in Science and Performance', vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 335-350.

▪ 'Unremarkable Violence: Staging Child Sexual Abuse in Recent British Drama' in Contemporary Theatre Review, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 166-181.

▪ 'The Lives of Our Mad Mothers: Ageing and Contemporary Performance', Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 1, no. 22, pp. 67-87.

▪ ‘Intolerable Acts’, Performance Research, vol. 1, no. 16, 2011, pp. 102-111.

▪ 'Land of Hope and Glory: Jez Butterworth's Tragic Landscapes' in Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 31, no. 1, 2011, pp. 61-73.

▪ 'Marginal Experiments: Peter Brook and Stepping Out Theatre Company' in RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, vol. 15, no. 1, 2010, pp. 39-58.



Anna is the co-artistic director of Idiot Child with Susie Riddell. The company creates playful and peculiar theatre work about ordinary lives. Drawing on autobiography and memory, the company devise bleak, comic tales that emerge from the facts, objects, and oddities of their own lives. The company make work that is concerned with comedy, pain, and theatricality and always place the audience at its heart. Their shows to date include I could’ve been better (Bristol Old Vic, Pleasance, touring), You’re not doing it right (Tobacco Factory), Isle of Shame (Tobacco Factory), and Nostalgia (Alma). Idiot Child were nominated for a Total Theatre Award in the category of Emerging Artists in 2013 alongside critical success in the local and national press. In 2015 Idiot Child are developing their new show What if the plane falls out of the sky? which will tour in Spring 2017. In addition to her work with Idiot Child Anna works as a freelance director and has recently directed You Sort of Disappear (Trinity, Bristol) and will direct Yours Truly, Arnold Binns with Mufti and Malcolm Hamilton.




  • BA (Hons) English Literature (Newcastle)
  • MA Modern Literature and Culture (York)
  • PhD English (Cantab)