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Centre for Contemporary British Theatre

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Centre for Contemporary British Theatre

The Centre for Contemporary British Theatre provides a supportive framework for research, teaching, supervision, mentoring, external consultation, performance activity, public engagement and dissemination in the broad field of contemporary British theatre.

Established in autumn 2017, the Centre organises a range of events, including an annual externally-advertised seminar series, an annual distinguished lecture, and various research, dissemination, advisory and training activities. Oversight from the Centre enables a coordinated approach to the research, teaching, performance and other activities relating to Contemporary British Theatre at Royal Holloway and beyond.

The physical and symbolic locus of the Centre is the world-class Caryl Churchill Theatre on campus, named for Britain’s greatest living playwright.

The research area covered by the Centre is wide-ranging and embraces the histories, contexts, practices, methodologies, aesthetics and politics of British theatre and performance in all its forms: we are particularly interested in exploring the latest developments in theatre and shaping the debate about how new work and new writing is understood.

Areas of enquiry include playwriting, directing, dramaturgy, acting and scenography; casting, repertoire, inclusivity and diversity; play and performance analysis; production histories and revisionist theatre historiography; performance ethnography and documentation of rehearsal and other creative practices; the work of specific theatre practitioners, groups and companies; amateur theatre; practice-based research; theatre criticism; spectatorship and reception studies; local, regional and national theatre policy and administration; theatre touring, subsidy and funding; English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh theatre; the national, European, international and global contexts of the production and reception of British theatre wherever it is performed; British theatre and Brexit; and the aesthetic, historical, philosophical and political dimensions of contemporary British theatre and performance.

The Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway has a long-standing, outward-looking and internationalist reputation for research excellence in this field. The study of contemporary British theatre is a cornerstone of our undergraduate curriculum in Drama and Theatre. Our postgraduate taught provision includes an MA in Contemporary Performance Practices, an MA in Playwriting, and an MA in Directing (the latter taught in part by the world-renowned director, Katie Mitchell).

The department hosts what is probably the world’s largest community of PhD students engaged in the study of contemporary British theatre: we currently have active clusters of research in theatre criticism (the theatre critic, Lyn Gardner, received an Honorary Doctorate from Royal Holloway in 2015), documentary and verbatim theatre, and playwriting studies (indicatively, on the work of Howard Barker, Alecky Blythe, Edward Bond, Caryl Churchill, Tim Crouch, Sarah Kane, and David Rudkin).

We have an impressive track record of working in partnership with major UK theatres and organisations, including the National Theatre, the RSC, the Barbican, the Plymouth Theatre Royal, the Young Vic, and the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The Centre also opens an opportunity to develop stronger links with our alumni, many of whom work in professional theatre, and also with College Archives (which curates important collections on post-war British theatre companies, such as Gay Sweatshop and the Half Moon).

Since the 1990s, Royal Holloway’s strengths in the field of contemporary British theatre have grown with:

  • The appointment of leading academics, including Lynette Goddard, Chris Megson, Helen Nicholson, Sophie Nield, and Dan Rebellato, to full-time staff.
  • The opening of the world-class Caryl Churchill Theatre at Royal Holloway in 2013, designed by renowned theatre architects Foster Wilson.
  • The award of major research council grants for projects investigating, for example, Amateur Theatre, and Theatre Spectatorship and Value Attribution, in recent years.
  • Many of our PhD graduates are leading teachers, practitioners and scholars in contemporary British theatre: they include Adam Alston, Vicky Angelaki, Rachel Clements, Marissia Fragkou, Louise LePage, Deborah Pearson, Grant Tyler Peterson, and Marilena Zaroulia.
  • The award of Honorary Doctorates to important figures in British theatre, including Lyn Gardner.
  • The development of innovative MAs in Contemporary Performance Practices, Playwriting, and Directing, taught in part by leading playwrights and practitioners including April de Angelis, Tanika Gupta, and Katie Mitchell.
  • Our partnerships and working collaborations with major theatres, companies and organisations including the National Theatre, the Traverse, the Barbican, the BBC, the RSC, the Young Vic, and many more.
Mixed media performance Christophoros Panoutos The Long Goodbye - Drama, Theatre and Dance

'Boundaries' by Mirror Huang Jingxuan, Caryl Churchill Theatre

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