School of the Arts, English and Drama

Staff research

Theatre and Performance

The Theatre and Performance Research Group is concerned with research into all forms of performance, both historical and contemporary. Our research-active staff are currently involved in a variety of projects. Some of what we do impinges on other cultural forms (such the novel, film, fine art) while some of it is “purely” theatrical.

Our research specialisms cut across several overlapping areas, and while colleagues continue to pursue a diverse range of projects, a few key themes have emerged over the years. These include

Dramatic literature: texts, contexts and analyses

Historically, the Theatre and Performance Research Group grew, for the most part, out of Loughborough’s Department of English and Drama – one of the first of its kind in the country. It is not surprising, then, that a key area of our expertise focuses on the dramatic text. Our members include both textual analysts and textual editors of classic and contemporary dramatic works, ranging from Goldsmith to Tennessee Williams, from Shakespeare to Martin McDonagh, from the classical to the avant-garde. Members of the Research Group are also playwrights and theatre-makers in their own right, writing and staging plays and performances for stage, radio and site-specific venues and events.

Theatre, performance and society

Colleagues in the Theatre and Performance Research Group have explored a range of issues concerning the various ways in which theatre and performance relate to key social issues. Gender has always been an important item on Loughborough’s research agenda, and researchers have published a range of books and articles on feminist theatre and on theatre and masculinity. Other issues of social and personal identity have also formed a focus of our work: in particular race, age, nationhood and the public sphere. Members of the group are also actively exploring ways in which an understanding of narrative and performance may help to address some of the major challenges facing society today.

Popular performance

The Research Group has a strong interest in the relationship between theatre and popular culture. This includes at times mediated performance (film, television, and multimedia performance) but the main focus is on the live event. Popular performance in this sense is performance that is rooted in the present moment, that sets up a direct connection between performer and audience and allows the audience to take an active role in the performance. With this in mind, research group members explore the meanings and significance of popular forms ranging from late nineteenth-century Grand Guignol plays to the history of conjuring, from Mexican street performances to puppet shows, and from storytelling to standup comedy.

The Research Group is involved in a very wide range of individual projects (see individual research pages for details). Two of the multidisciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative projects on which Research Group colleagues are currently working are detailed below.

Digital Storytelling

We are involved in a number of initiatives that look at the role of storytelling in today’s digital world and how it might be applied to bring new voices into the public debate around major challenges facing society. The work has grown out of Professor Mike Wilson’s long-standing research into various aspects of storytelling and, in particular, Project ASPECT, a major AHRC-funded project, in collaboration with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, that explored the potential of digital storytelling to support wider public engagement in the climate change conversation. Current threads in this project area include: ‘LIDA: Loneliness in the Digital Age’, (funded by ESRC) exploring the uses of technology and storytelling to support those vulnerable to bouts of episodic loneliness; ‘Digital Dialogues’, which explores the value of creative interventions to support the concept of mutual recovery in the field of mental health; and ‘DRY; Drought Resilience and You’, a four-year project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, seeking to develop a community-based narrative resource for drought planning. For further details contact Mike Wilson.

Performance and Wellbeing

Overlapping in part with some of the aspects of the digital storytelling strand, our researchers are also exploring ways in which theatre and performance may contribute to health and well-being. Starting with considerations of theatre and ageing, the performance and well-being project has developed into a wider response to the universal recognition that transformational change in healthcare is needed. Understanding the role of culture in health, well-being and healthcare provision will be central to a successful shift. At present the latter is poorly prepared to respond to the so-called ‘silver tsunami’ of an ageing population, and the accompanying chronic conditions (which rarely manifest as single illnesses: most people have multiple conditions). Reimagining the future of healthcare is a significant challenge - but one that the Arts and Humanities are well placed to shape and inform. For further details contact Mick Mangan.

Mary Brewer, Staging Whiteness, Wesleyan University Press

Mary Brewer, ‘Battling the Legions of the Ungodly: Alternative American Drama and the Vietnam War’, Comparative American Studies, 9 (2011), 35-54

Mary Brewer, ‘Offerings on the Altar of National Pride: Pioneer Plays and American Identity’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 31 (2011): 243-58

Bob Brocklehurst, ‘Scratching BAC’, video (Prague Quadrennial)

Bob Brocklehurst, Excessive Narratives: Georges Bataille, Self-Sacrifice & the Communal Language of the Yucatec Maya (ISBN 0-9551829-4-8)

Bob Brocklehust and Dan Watt Performance Research, 15:1 Special Number ‘Memento Mori’

Mick Mangan, Performing Dark Arts: a Cultural History of Conjuring (Intellect Press and Chicago University Press),

Mick Mangan, Staging Ageing (Intellect Press and Chicago University Press)

Mick Mangan, Sarah Goldingay, Paul Dieppe and Deborah Marsden, ‘(Re)acting medicine: applying theatre in order to develop a whole-systems approach to understanding the healing response’, Research in Drama Education, 19: 3 pp. 272-279.

Catherine Rees, Representing Acceptability: Power, Violence and Satire in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore’, in Performing Violence in Contemporary Ireland, ed. by Lisa Fitzpatrick (Carysfort), pp. 85-103

Catherine Rees (ed.), Changes in Contemporary Ireland: Texts and Contexts (Cambridge Scholars’ Press)

Catherine Rees, ‘Sarah Kane’, in Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s, ed. by Aleks Sierz (Methuen), pp. 112-37

Carolyn Scott-Jeffs 21 Conversations with a Hairdresser (radio-play), BBC Radio 4

Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, Jesus, The Devil and a Kid Called Death (radio-play), BBC Radio 4

Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, 15 Ways to Leave your Lover (radio-play), BBC Radio 4

Dan Watt, ‘Edmond Jabes: Double Exile and the Uncanny Fragment'’, in The Poetics of Shadows: The Double in Literature and Philosophy, ed. by Andrew Hock Soon Ng (Ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart), pp 17-34

Dan Watt , ‘Performing, Strolling, Thinking: From Minor Literature to Theatre of the Future’, in Deleuze and Performance, ed. by Laura Cull (EUP), pp. 91-102

Dan Watt, Ethical Encounters (co-editor) (Cambridge Scholars Press)

Mike Wilson, (with Richard J. Hand) London’s Grand-­‐Guignol and the Theatre of Horror, ‘Studies in Performance’ Series, University of Exeter Press (Shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize)

Mike Wilson, Luzel’s Folk Tales of Lower Brittany (translated texts with critical introduction), ‘Fairy-­‐Tale Studies’ series, Wayne State University Press (forthcoming)

Mike Wilson ‘Discussing the Weather: Digital Stories, Communities and the Climate Change Conversation’ (with Karen Lewis), Proceedings of the People and the Planet 2013 Conference, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

Nigel Wood, ‘Civic Humanism’: Said, Brecht, and Coriolanus’, in Towards a New Literary Humanism, ed. by Andy Mousley (Macmillan), pp. 212-27

Nigel Wood , ‘The Official and Unofficial Spleen’, Le Spectateur Européen: Figures et Cultures, ed. by Clark Lawlor, pp. 129-41

Nigel Wood, ‘Goldsmith’s English Malady’, Studies in the Literary Imagination, 44.1, 63-83

Mary Brewer, Bob Brocklehurst, Lee Campbell, Johanna Hallsten, Antonia Liguori, Mick Mangan, Tim Miles, Catherine Rees, Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, Mike Wilson, Dan Watt, Nigel Wood. 

PGR Students
Amir Andwari (Shakespeare, Kristeva and Ovid)
Lyndsey Bakewell (Restoration theatre and ‘spectacle’)
Michael Pinchbeck (Contemporary dramaturgy: practice-based)
Daniel Tyler (Shakespearean adaptation: practice-based)
Virginie Ganivet (The English Mr Punch)
Susan Hennessey (Beckett and Phenomenology)
Caroline Astell-Burt (Otome-bunraku puppetry: practice-based)
Myfanwyn Ryan (Women and performance: practice-based)


Stages of Utopia and Dissent

19 May 2018, Loughborough University London, UK

Stages of Utopia and Dissent is a one-day conference  organised by the Theatre and Performance Research Group at Loughborough University