Skip to main content
School of English and Drama

Professor Bridget Escolme, PhD PGCE


Professor of Theatre and Performance



I came to QMUL’s Department of Drama in 2005, after a first academic post at the Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds; I undertook my MA and PhD at Leeds too. Before that, the first ten years of my career were spent in the secondary education sector. I’d taken an undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Cambridge, and a PGCE in English and Drama there, then worked teaching English and Drama in state secondary schools, creating and running workshops for an educational theatre company, and teaching Drama at a Further Education college. Leaving full-time teaching for PhD study gave me the opportunity to research through practice. During and since that time I’ve worked as an actor, director and dramaturg in the UK and USA. My early years as a school teacher gave me a passion for pedagogy: questions of how people learn continue to feed my teaching practice and the training and education we offer new teachers in the Department of Drama.

My PhD explored the relationship between performer and audience in Shakespeare production and I’ve been interested in how theatre can address and include audiences ever since. More recently, my research has turned to histories of emotions and the arts and mental health; I’ve published on the depiction of ‘mad’ figures in early modern drama, and how contemporary theatrical culture deals with those depictions. I regularly attend the Edinburgh Festival to see performances related to mental health and have written about them in Performance Research and The Lancet: Psychiatry. I also have a research interest in histories of theatre costume (and a personal interest in fashion!).

My current academic administrative role is Director of Student Support in the Department of Drama and I am a Mental Health First Aider for the School of English and Drama.

Professional Activities

I have served as External Examiner for undergraduate courses at Northbrook College (now Greater Brighton Metropolitan College) and the University of Hull, and for Masters courses at the University of Sheffield and Napier University, Edinburgh. I am currently External Examiner at Wimbledon: University of the Arts London, for the BA Hons degrees Acting and Performance, and Contemporary Theatre and Performance, new programmes on whose external validation panels I also served.

I have examined PhDs at Royal Holloway, UCL, Kings College London, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, University of Hull, University of York, University of Birmingham.

I am series co-editor for:

  • Shakespeare in Practice (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave), with Stuart Hampton-Reeves.
  • Shakespeare in the Theatre (London: Bloomsbury, Arden Shakespeare), with Peter Holland and Farah Karim Cooper.

I am on Twitter


I’ve taught on a wide range of seminar-based and practical theatre modules in the Department of Drama, including theatre history and theatre costume classes, and a long-running practice-based module exploring the depictions of mental health across theatre history. I currently co-convene and teach on QMUL’s MSc in Creative Arts and Mental Health, a collaboration between Drama and the Centre for Psychiatry, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

My approach to teaching is practical and collaborative: as well as making theatre with students to explore questions of the cultural politics of mental health and the performance of the past, I use theatre practice to access historiography and cultural theory. Every year I learn from my students and from the new university teachers we train in the Department of Drama.

Recent modules taught include: 

  • DRA7010 Performing Mental Health    
  • DRA7204 Theatre for Young People: Pedagogy in Practice
  • DRA323 Madness and Theatricality
  • DRA243 Costume Dramas
  • DRA205 Performing Shakespeare



Research Interests:

  • Performance and Mental Health, and the History of Emotions
  • Theatre Costume
  • Early Modern Drama in Performance; theatre audiences

Recent and On-Going Research:

My main research interests are:

Performance and Mental Health, and the History of Emotions.

My research interests in the representation of mental health and illness in performance, and in histories of emotion, have emerged from research for the monograph Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage (see publications below) and from collaboration on the MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health with the Centre for Psychiatry (see my Teaching link). I have published on the history of emotions and on mental health related performance at the Edinburgh Fringe in the Lancet: Psychiatry and in Theatre Research International. I have recently co-created a practice-based research project about laughter and power in early modern English and Italian theatre with Dr Maria Turri of the Centre for Psychiatry, funded by the School of English and Drama’s Strategic Research Fund. This has involved an ‘Action Research’ event at Shakespeare’s Globe and a successful joint-authored book with Routledge, research for which is currently in progress (see my Publications link).

My ongoing research in these areas explores how stigma and stereotype can be deliberately challenged and unintentionally reiterated, through theatre writing, scenography, and the relationship between performer and audience.

Theatre Costume

I have an ongoing research interest in the meanings produced by clothes on stage and in cultural more broadly. My monograph Shakespeare and Costume in Practice will be published in 2020 (see my Publications link).

Early Modern Drama in Performance; theatre audiences

My early research took the form of cultural materialist analyses of the relationship between the performer and audience in contemporary Shakespeare production, and since the publication of my AHRB-funded PhD as the monograph Talking to the Audience (see my Publications link) I have published widely in this and other areas related to early modern drama in performance. My research has examined the cultural politics of Shakespeare in performance; early modern drama and contemporary costume and scenography; early modern drama and the history of emotions.



Single-authored books

  • Shakespeare and Costume in Practice (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2020)
  • Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage (London: Bloomsbury, Arden Shakespeare, 2013).
  • Antony and Cleopatra (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave 2006).
  • Talking to the Audience: Shakespeare, Performance, Self (London: Routledge, 2005).

Dual-authored book

Bridget Escolme and Maria Turri, Laughter, Power and the Unconscious (London: Routlege, forthcoming 2022).

Edited Collection

  • Shakespeare and the Making of Theatre, ed. Bridget Escolme and Stuart Hampton-Reeves (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2012).
  • ‘Acting: The Taming of the Shrew, Coriolanus’ in Katharine Craik ed., Shakespeare and Emotion, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  • ‘Wrecks Emotional and Unemotional: Mental Distress in Contemporary Performance. Edinburgh 2018’, Performance Research 24.5 (2018), 132-141.

Articles and Essays

  • ‘Acting: The Taming of the Shrew, Coriolanus’ in Katharine Craik ed., Shakespeare and Emotion, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  • ‘Wrecks Emotional and Unemotional: Mental Distress in Contemporary Performance. Edinburgh 2018’, Performance Research 24.5 (2018), 132-141.
  • ‘Edinburgh Fringe report: Community, context, recovery’, The Lancet: Psychiatry 5.10 (2018), 791-3
  • ‘When Grief has Mates: King Lear and the Politics of Happiness’, The Lancet: Psychiatry 5.8 (2018) 621-2
  • ‘Brexit Dreams: Comedy, Nostalgia and Critique in Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Heather Hirschfield, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Comedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • ‘Public Eye and Private Place: Intimacy and Meta-theatre in Pericles and The Tempest’, Shakespeare Bulletin, 36.1 (2018), 111-130
  • ‘Shakespeare and the Contemporary: Psychology, Culture and Audience in Othello production’, in James C. Bulman ed., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare in Performance (Oxford: Oxford University Press c. 2016).
  • ‘Costume in Shakespeare’s Period’, in Bruce Smith and Katherine Rowe eds., The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).
  • ‘Tragedy in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Theatre Production: Hamlet, Lear and the Politics of Intimacy’, in Michael Neill and David Schalkwyk eds., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • ‘The First Season at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe: The Duchess of Malfi, The Knight of the Burning Pestle and The Malcontent’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 65: 2 (2015), 209-218.
  • ‘Ophelia Confined. Madness and Infantilisation in some versions of Hamlet’, in Anna Halpern and J. Foster eds., Madness, Performance, Psychiatry: Isolated Acts (Basinsgtoke: Palgrave, 2014).
  • ‘Afterword’ to Susan Bennett and Christie Carson eds., Shakespeare Beyond English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
  • ‘Shakespeare and the Site-Specific’, Shakespeare Bulletin special edition: ‘Rehearsing Shakespeare: Alternative Strategies in Process and Performance’, 30: (Winter 2012) 505 – 522.
  • ‘Costume and Disguise’, in Farah Karim Cooper and Tiffany Stern eds., Shakespeare’s Theatre and the Effects of Theatrical Performance (London: Bloomsbury, Arden Shakespeare, 2012).
  • ‘Gendered Neurosis on Stage and Screen: Fiona Shaw’s Richard II’, in Jeremy Lopez ed., Routledge New Critical Essays: Richard II (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2012).
  • ‘Costume’, in Bridget Escolme and Stuart-Hampton Reeves eds., Shakespeare and the Making of Theatre (Houndmills, Basingstoke: 2011).
  • ‘Being Good: Actors’ Testimonies as Archive and the Cultural Construction of Success in Performance’, Shakespeare Bulletin, vol. 28, no.1, Spring 2010.
  • ‘Shakespeare and Our Contemporaries’, in Sarah Werner ed., New Directions in Shakespeare and Performance Studies (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
  • ‘Mark Rylance and Shakespeare’s Globe’ in John Russell Brown ed., Directors’ Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 2008).
  • ‘Living Monuments: Shakespeare’s Rome on the Contemporary Stage’, Shakespeare Survey 60 (2007) 170 – 183.
  • ‘Making Things Difficult: Anne Bogart and W. B. Worthen’, in Lynette Hunter and Peter Lichtenfels eds., Shakespeare, Language and the Stage: The Fifth Wall (London: Bloomsbury, Arden Shakespeare 2005).
  • ‘Authority, Empowerment and Fairy Tales: Theatre for Young People’, in Nicholas Ridout and Joe Kelleher eds., Contemporary Theatres in Europe (London: Routledge, 2005).

Talks, Keynotes, and Conference Contributions (selected)

I am co-convener with Dr Maria Turri and Dr Louise Younie of the annual conference Mad Hearts: Arts and Mental Health, hosted by the Department of Drama, the Centre for Psychiatry and the MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health. I delivered one of two Keynote addresses at the first conference in 2019.

Other recent conference contributions have included

  • Keynote lecture at London Shakespeare Centre KCL and Shakespeare’s Globe: ‘Negotiating Boundaries: Texts and Cultures’, February 2020
  • Plenary lecture, seminar convener and workshop convener at various annual meetings of the Shakespeare Association of America;
  • Plenary speaker at ‘Meta-play: Early Modern Drama and Meta-theatre’, University of Kent (2015);
  • Keynote speaker at ‘Bloody Passions: Extreme Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture’, Centre for Studies in Literature, University of Portsmouth (2015).

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research. Recent and current doctoral projects supervised have included research into autobiographical performance and mental health, and a wide range of projects exploring Shakespeare and early modern drama in recent performance.

Public Engagement

My research in early modern drama in performance has been disseminated beyond the academy in my work as dramaturgical advisor and programme-essay writer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe, Manchester Royal Exchange, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse). I am a regular contributor at public talks and study days at Shakespeare’s Globe. I have worked with young actors in three Brazilian cities as part of People’s Palace Projects’ ‘Forum Shakespeare’, as explored in The Guardian online: ‘Does Shakespeare Work Better Outside Britain?’, Guardian.

I have also edited two play editions aimed at school students:

  • Mike Bartlett, Earthquakes in London (London: Methuen Drama, forthcoming 2021).
  • Making a Difference: The Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah, introduction and co-editor with Richard Boon; collection of three plays commissioned by The Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah (Leeds: Alumnus 2004).

The annual conference ‘Mad Hearts: Arts and Mental Health’ (see Talks, Keynotes and Conference Contributions above) continues to attract artists, health service users, and those who identify as both, to dialogue with academics and clinicians in the fields of arts and mental health.


Practice-based Research

  • Coriolanus: an exploration of the spatial politics of the play in promenade production’, with Flaneur Productions. The California Building Gallery, Minneapolis; the Rochester Arts Center, Rochester Minnesota; Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis (2006-7). (Director)
  • Romeo and Juliet: Schools Workshops project’, exploring the relationship between performer and audience in the play in production for young audiences; with the West Yorkshire Playhouse (2004). (Director and facilitator)
  • Measure for Measure, A Performance Research Project’: an excavation of structures of theatrical status in the play, its source texts and its adaptations. Leeds Met Studio Theatre and International Federation of Theatre Research, Amsterdam, (2002). (Director and facilitator)
  • Hamlet: A Performance Research Project’: a staging of repetition, reiteration and performance history. Leeds Met Studio Theatre, 2000. (Director and Facilitator)
Back to top