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10 May 2018

Drama lecturer turns the spotlight on pro-wrestling

Dr Claire Warden, Senior Lecturer in English and Drama, is looking forward to the latest in a series of events which aim to highlight and examine the performative characteristics of professional wrestling.

With her roots in interdisciplinary modernism, theatre history and physical culture, Dr Warden is used to mixed reactions to her interest in pro-wrestling.

She said: “Pro-wrestling is very different from amateur wrestling – it’s performative, not competitive. It sits on the border of sport and art and it only works if the participants work together. It’s the opposite of boxing – it’s more like ballroom dancing!”

This week, Dr Warden will experience for herself just how much of a performative art wrestling is when she plays the role of commissioner in a sell-out wrestling show at Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester.

“We have four matches planned which will give seasoned wrestling fans and total newbies a chance to really explore wrestling as a performance art.

"Unusually, we’ll finish the show with a Q&A with the wrestlers: an opportunity to hear more about how they create their characters and connect with audiences. We have sold 120 tickets, which is remarkable for an arts event like this. It just shows how popular wrestling is."

Featuring some of Britain’s best known performers, the show is part of the Wrestling Resurgence project, which Dr Warden heads up alongside theatre maker, Andrew Westerside, academics Ben Litherland and Tom Phillips, and Attenborough Arts curators Sam West and John Kirby. 

The project, initially supported by a grant from the Being Human Arts and Humanities Festival, aims to explore wrestling as an art form, while understanding more about its role in society.

For anyone interested in learning more about the art of pro-wrestling, one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment, Dr Warden has also co-edited Performance and Professional Wrestling (Routledge 2016), an exploration of key areas of interest such as scripting, gender identity, queerness, ethnicity and violence in the wrestling ring.