I worked for several years as an arts practitioner, and I am now a Senior Lecturer in Drama, teaching puppetry and object theatre and contemporary performance. My research interests are puppetry, masks, costume, objects and scenography; the theatre of the Bauhaus and Modernism; autism and theatre; and cognition. My doctorate on Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus Theatre was one of the first in the UK to be based on practical research and my publications include a seminal article in 2004 on the methodology of practice as research, a monograph on the theatre of the Bauhaus (2011) and articles on scenography, applied theatre and puppetry.
I was Co-investigator (and maker, performer, puppeteer and production manager) on the AHRC funded project Imagining Autism(2011-2014). I support practice based research in the School of Arts in my role of Director for Practice as Research in the University Research Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance. As School of Arts Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Representative I am working to promote these ideals throughout the School as we prepare for our Athena Bronze submission in 2018.
Public engagement is central to my work, extending the Imagining Autism research into Imagining Autism for Families (2016), sharing the techniques with parents and siblings of autistic children; and recently initiating Imagining Autism for Arts Centres, beginning with an Imagining Autism residency at the Atkinson Arts Centre, Southport in March 2017.back to top
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
I am a practitioner, theorist and historian, specialising in twentieth and twenty first century theatre. Students in evaluations comment upon my passionate interest for my subject, firing their interest and ability to learn. In helping students to make work, I demonstrate actively the links between past and present, between the twentieth century avant-garde and current practice, and show how these ideas can inform and inspire cutting edge contemporary work. I convene and teach on the current Masters level programme in Contemporary Performance Practice and will make a central contribution to the new Masters course in 2017, Theatre Making.
I pioneered the teaching of puppetry and object theatre in Kent Drama and seek to widen the understanding of scenography and space as vital elements of contemporary theatre. My module Puppet and Object Theatre gives students the chance to produce highly visual and original pieces of theatre, including puppetry of all kinds (shadow, ultra violet and table top puppets). My research as Co-investigator on the AHRC funded project (2011-2014) Imagining Autism (http://www.imaginingautism.org) explored the intimate connection between body, mind, space and object, and continues to inform much of my teaching.
I investigate using drama with autistic children, using light, sound, puppetry, masks and digital media. I was Co-investigator on the AHRC funded project Imagining Autism (2011-2014). The project was run in conjunction with the University of Kent Tizard Centre and Psychology department, who applied quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate the impact of the work on the children. The project promoted interdisciplinary understanding between different methodologies. I investigate the connections between the ‘materiality’ of performance and autistic perception, and apply cognitive approaches to understanding puppetry. My most recent article is co-authored with Nicola Shaughnessy: ‘Material voices: intermediality and autism’ RiDE (Research in Drama and Education) 21.3, 2016. You can view footage of me working with children via this link, under ‘Supplemental Material’.
I am Director for Practice as Research in the University Research Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance and my publications include a seminal essay (2004) on the methodology of practice as research. The centre promotes cognitive approaches to performance and actively promotes understanding between art and science. I have written the only book in English on the Bauhaus stage, and I have an international profile as a leading researcher on Bauhaus theatre.
Public engagement is a vital aspect of my research, for example performing in ‘The Funny Thing about Autism’ at the Marlowe Studio, Canterbury 2013; delivering Inset training workshops for teachers in the Imagining Autism method to every National Autistic Society School in the UK (2014); directing ‘Imagining Autism for Families’ in summer 2016 and developing Imagining Autism for Arts Centres in 2017 (Atkinson Arts Centre, Southport). In January 2015 I was invited to the V & A in London to speak alongside the exhibition ‘Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution and Design’, resulting a co-authored article with Donatella Barbieri ‘War, Revolution and Design: exploring pedagogy, practice-based research and costume for performance through the Russian avant-garde theatre’ Studies in Theatre and Performance June 2016.
- Bridging the art/science divide: transdisciplinary research
- Cognitive approaches to scenography
- Drama, performance and autism
- Puppetry and applied theatre
- Contemporary Performance
- Puppets and Objects
- Bauhaus stage and early Modernism
- Scenography and architecture
- Methodology in practice-based research
I supervise PhD students within the University of Kent Research Centre for Cognition Kinethetics and Performance (CKP). I supervised Dr Deborah Leveroy for her doctorate establishing synergies between the training of actors and dyslexic learning. Currently I supervise PhD student Hannah Newman who is co-supervised by Professor Julie Beadle-Brown (University of Kent Tizard Centre) and Dr David Wilkinson (Psychology), and is applying the methods of the AHRC project Imagining Autism to diagnostic procedures. This PhD pioneers the training of ‘bi-lingual’ postgraduates who are able to work across the disciplines of art and science. My students are from diverse backgrounds: I jointly supervise (with Nicola Shaughnessy) Annette Foster who is, via her own practice as a performance artist, investigating women’s experience of autism. Kirsty Roberts is investigating the impact of contemporary postdramatic practices in children’s theatre. Andy Hurst, Lecturer at Christ Church University Canterbury, is investigating digital interfaces between audience and performers in scenographically driven performance; Carmel Sammut is a University Lecturer based in Malta, investigating the development of literary empathy through embodied approaches to storytelling. Finally Sandra Bowern is investigating how David Hockney’s stage work cross influences his painting. I have supervised several students to completion at MA level on our MA PAR (Practice as Research) and on the taught MA in Contemporary Performance Practice.
I am interested in hearing from students wanting to study at postgraduate level and I am happy to help clarify your ideas and direction. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . These are my specialist areas:
- Cognitive approaches to research into contemporary performance including all aspects of puppetry and object theatre
- autism, performance and puppetry
- Visually/scenographically led stages
- Modernism and the twentieth century avant garde
- the Bauhaus and its stage, Oskar Schlemmer
- the interface of philosophy and performance, history of phenomenology/embodiment
- the synergy between visual art and performance