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Practice-based research: Staff

The research of many staff and postgraduate students in the Department of Drama and Theatre engages with practice in different ways; as a core methodology and mode of enquiry ( ‘thinking through performance’); as process and live event; as site for collaboration, dialogue and critical reflection. Practices include:

  • applied theatre making
  • directing
  • devising
  • dramaturgy
  • performing
  • playwriting
  • puppetry
  • movement and dance
  • embodied training processes
  • interdisciplinary collaboration
  • scenographic design
  • curation and documentation.

These practices also inform teaching at all levels and are integrated into the undergraduate and taught MA programmes within the department.

Current staff members whose research focuses on, or is informed by, practice, include:

Matthew Issac Cohen

A Dalang in Search of Wayang (NIAS, The Netherlands, 13 March 2012)Matthew Isaac Cohen is a performer of puppet theatre, which informs much of his scholarship, complementing historical and anthropological research. 

A particular interest is wayang kulit, the shadow puppet theatre of Java, Indonesia, in both traditional and contemporary settings. He has performed internationally with puppet artists, dancers and gamelan musicians for the last 25 years. His solo lecture-performance A Dalang in Search of Wayang premiered in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2011 and has since toured the US, The Netherlands, Indonesia and around the UK.

He has recently begun practical studies of wayang golek cepak, a rare Javanese rod puppet theatre narrating local history for village audiences. Read more information here

Helen Gilbert

VictoriaHunt-DayofInvigilationWorking in dialogue with scholars and artists in Australia, Helen Gilbert has directed and designed experimental projects to develop her thinking about cross-cultural  praxis in performance contexts.  In 2013, she curated a major exhibition at the Bargehouse, London, as part of her interdisciplinary research on, and with, contemporary indigenous performance makers in the Americas, Oceania, Australia and South Africa. This work creatively probed questions about heritage and its transmission in transnational contexts, cultural entanglements across time and place, sustainability as an artistic principle, the dynamics of intercultural curation, and not least, about the challenges of archiving ephemeral acts. The exhibition, which was funded by the European Research Council, had an online and interactive component.

Dick McCaw

Dick McCaw’s practice-related research has focused on the documentation and dissemination of practitioners’ approaches, and on the curation of public fora with international artists. He has curated and enabled public talks for the London International Mime Festival since 2006, leading public discussions with over 100 performers across London, from the Royal Opera House and Barbican Arts Centre to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). He initiated Renegotiations, a co-mentoring project with choreographer  Siobhan Davis, Lois Weaver, Rose English, Tyrone Huggins and Ian Spink (2007-10). He instigated Writing on the Body, Writing on the Page (2006-09), which was a documentation project that brought together writers and choreographers to discuss their approaches to composition.

He also established and led Dance Umbrella’s A Feeling for Practice, a series of work presentations by dance experts (2007-11). In 2008, he documented Improbable’s ‘Open Space’ project, Devoted and Disgruntled. Dick has been a Feldenkrais practitioner since 2007.

Elaine McGirr

Elaine McGirr is working at the intersection of theatre history and heritage. Her current project explores the history and conserves the practice of private theatricals in heritage sites from prison ships to stately homes.  

Recent collaborations include a pastiche of Mansfield Park and Lovers’ Vows, which took its audience on a tour of the ‘Jane Austen Trail’ in Alton, Hampshire. She is also developing a short piece on the realities and representation of maternity on the 18th century stage.

Helen Nicholson

Helen Nicholson's research is focused on applied theatre, working in many different settings – schools, care homes for the elderly, day centres for people with head injuries, prisons, hostels for the homeless and orphanages in Africa.

Her research interests lie in the relationship between contemporary practices in site-based performance and the institutional spaces such as prisons, schools and hospitals that are often the settings for the participatory practices associated with applied theatre. 

Her practice-based research has investigated the relationship between place and citizenship, working with people whose lives have been affected by major international events. This has led to her inter-generational work in the Hiroshima district of Japan, to work with young people born in post-Apartheid South Africa and, more locally, to practice with young Islamic people politicised by the7/7 bombings in London.

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato is a playwright who has written theatre and radio plays, adaptations, and texts for live art/ devising companies across the UK and Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. His work tests and explores dramaturgical form as a means of questioning ethical and political aspects of contemporary life. 

He works with companies such as Lightwork, Analogue and Suspect Culture. He co-edited the Suspect Culture Book (Oberon, 2013). Several of his plays, including Static, Chekov in Hell and Beachy Head are in print. 

Current work includes Negative Signs of Progress for BBC Radio 4, a trilogy (Here, There and Somewhere) set against the background of the Arab Spring, as well as Honesty, a satire about our darkest taboos, and Dying Words, about the death of a language, both for the Drum Theatre.

Libby Worth

Libby Worth is a movement/dance practitioner who trained initially with Anna Halprin and colleagues. She recently became a Feldenkrais Practitioner. She has extensive experience in making movement-based performances, site responsive works and in collaborative projects that challenge disciplinary boundaries.  

Her current research interests centre on making and performing work with visual artist Julie Brixley-Williams using (and misusing) scores drawn from embroidery and folk dance, exploring how the  Feldenkrais Method is employed internationally in performer training across arts disciplines, and continuing to develop processes of dynamic interaction between performance texts and dance/movement.


Find out more about our PhD students' practice-based research.


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