I have worked in the fields of Applied Performance and Development Theatre for twenty five years, including twenty at both the Education Department of Glyndebourne Opera and now as Reader in Applied Performance Queen Mary, University of London, in what has over that period become the top Drama Department for research in the UK.
I am one of the leading exponents and adaptors of the techniques of my teacher and mentor the late Augusto Boal, the legendary Brazilian founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed movement.
I use a workshop methodology to induct students in the techniques of practice-based research, with reflexive seminars and skills based sessions as appropriate. From Level 6 students increasingly conduct their own PBR through supervised placements in a wide range of community settings.
I direct the C-O-R-E (Communities-Outreach-Research-Engagement) group for Drama students and others across faculties seeking to gain professional experience of community engagement.
I am currently Director of Outreach; QM Drama.
In the 2015-16 academic year, I teach on:
• Practice-based research into Health and Well-being that is client led and sustainable
• Templates for participatory consultation bringing users of public services into direct contact with providers to maximise impact on both research and policy making
• Development Theatre in Africa, South America and India: capacity building, Knowledge Exchange and dissemination of best practice
• Oral history and Intergenerational arts-based practice with Elders, students and children especially from marginal groups
• Exploring the links between Voice, Advocacy and Activism through embodied performative practices
Recent and On-Going Research
Embodied Emotions (2010 – present). P.I.
This AHRC Beyond Text project used interdisciplinary, cross-arts practices to interrogate the Government’s SEAL initiative (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) with Year 6 Primary school children as co-researchers. The research centered on the development of a child-led workshop template, X-Ray Eyes, co-created by school students in collaboration with historian Dr. Thomas Dixon (Centre for the History of Emotion @ QMUL) interrogating the top-down nature of prescriptive educational initiatives by involving the whole school community in a reciprocal dialogue with academics and policy makers. The practice-based research paralleled a series of interdisciplinary seminars at QMUL, exploring the concept of emotional literacy and theories of emotional expression in artistic, scientific, medical, historical, educational and performative terms.
Making Wellbeing: Templates for participatory Applied Arts research into Health and Well-being. (2011 – present). P.I.
For five years I have co-designed, tested and disseminated a practice-based methodology enabling community groups to work directly with researchers and policy makers. Collaborating with the LINK network (including AGE UK and the Black and Ethnic Minority Community Care Forum/BEMCCF) I have customised an Applied Arts approach for NHS consultations with LINK user groups, creating a level platform for both communities and researchers through performance, visual practice and film and translating individual and group experience into expertise available to commissioners and health professionals.
'The Lawnmowers Independent Company: The Politics of Making', in Performance and Community: Case Studies and Commentary ed. Caoimhe McAvinchey (London: Methuen, 2013)
‘The Cockerel and the King’s Ear’, in African Theatre: Youth ed. Martin Banham and Michael Etherton (Oxford: James Currey, 2006)
‘Imaging Northern Ireland’, in Image and Imagination: Writing from the Making Space Conference, Belfast 2002 ed. Janice Hoadley (Belfast: Stranmillis Press, 2003)
Walking the Downs: Archaeology of the Imagination (Lewes: Glyndebourne, 2000)
‘Reinventing the Wheel’, in Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism, ed. Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz (London: Routledge, 1993)
‘Falling or Flying?’ and ‘Questions from Rio', Working Without Boal: Digressions and Developments in the Theatre of the Oppressed, special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review, ed. Frances Babbage, 3 (1995}
Anansi (Walton on Thames: Nelson, 1992)
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research. I currently supervise Postgraduates at Royal Holloway, Leeds, Glasgow and Goldsmiths in aspects of applied performance and mentor colleagues and students across Queen Mary, University of London in the application and customising of practice-based research in Geography, Medicine, Law, Electronic Engineering and Dentistry.
I run experiential performance training which brings artists and marginal groups together in education outreach work for many major cultural institutions including The British Museum; ENO Bayliss Programme; Glyndebourne; RFH; Tate Modern; Chichester Festival Theatre and many leading orchestras including the Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields and the City of London Sinfonia. I have worked as Dramaturg for both GRAEAE and Lawnmowers, the UK’s leading professional companies for Disabled and Learning-disabled artists respectively.
I work with London Boroughs and LEAs to bring performance and visual practice into training settings, working with non-professionals to bring about social change: co-devising with Turkish/Kurdish refugees training for Hackney Housing staff; working on Advocacy awareness with People First (learning disabled adults) and carers from LB Newham and Redbridge. I am currently creating a peer-led advocacy programme with the Black and Ethnic Minority Community Care Forum and a child-led resource for PhDs in postgraduate Paediatric Dentistry intended to transform training for new inductees. This work has been nominated for a Gaurdian Higher Education Award and my community-based performance work won a Podium Award for London University’s cultural contribution to the 2012 Olympics for A Living Map, a project using performance to change perceptions of the local area as part of consultations across Tower Hamlets leading to transformation in the built environment.
As co-founder of BREAKOUT T.I.E (1982- 92) I adapted Boal’s Forum and Image theatre for school and community settings in the UK, including the UK’s first ACGB/Terrence Higgins Trust funded work on AIDS. As an Artistic Director of Glyndebourne Youth Opera I co-devised with composer Jonathan Dove several large-scale community works including In Search of Angels (Peterborough Cathedral; 1995) the largest community performance of its kind in the UK. My Forum piece for Primary Schools, Poor Ted, explored substance abuse in an interactive, child-led format, and was seen by over half a million children between 1995 and 2000.
As a British Council designated artist in the Development field I use the templates generated by such work to train NGO workers alongside theatre and music professionals: across Europe (particularly the Balkans); Brazil, Malawi, Uganda, Burkina-Faso, Kenya, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan and Syria. I received the Winston Churchill Fellowship Medal from the Queen for AIDS education work in Uganda in 1990.