School of English and Drama

Dr Aoife Monks, BA PhD (Trinity College Dublin)


Reader in Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies



Born in Ireland, I did my BA and PhD at Trinity College Dublin. I’ve been based in the UK since 2003, as a Lecturer at the University of Reading, and then Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. At Birkbeck, I established and directed the BA Theatre and Drama Studies and the MA Text and Performance (with RADA). I was also director of the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre. I am Consulting Editor of Contemporary Theatre Review journal and co-convenor of the Feminist Research Working Group at the International Federation of Theatre Research and joined Queen Mary in 2014.


My teaching focuses on empowering students to engage with theatre passionately, critically, confidently, and knowledgeably.  My teaching focuses on the histories and cultures of theatre, considering questions of identity, ideology, and materiality through reading, talking, and doing.

Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • DRA223: Naturalism
  • DRA252: Acting Theory
  • DRA259: Cultural Politics and Performance
  • DRA341: Performance and Celebrity


Research Interests:

  • The histories and ideologies of acting
  • Critical approaches to costume and embodiment
  • Virtuosity and Stage Irishness
  • The material cultures of performance
  • Professional identity at the theatre

My most recent book, Readings in Costume (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is co-authored with the costume designer Ali Mclaurin and approaches costume from a range of perspectives: historical pictorialism, modern dress, cultures of practice, backstage labour, stereotypes and identity, and modernism and experiment. The book is interspersed with interviews with a range of practitioners that work with costume: designers, directors, performers, and photographers. This book follows on from my monograph, The Actor in Costume (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), which examined the ways in which costume can be understood critically, examining its uncanny state in rehearsal, in the dressing room, in performance, and in the archive. I have written a ‘Manifesto on Craft’ for Scene journal, arguing for the re-evaluation of backstage work, and collaborate with colleagues nationally and internationally to develop the ongoing critical examination of costume’s role in the theatre event, not least with Dr Bridget Escolme (Queen Mary) on a series of occasional research events called ‘Working, Wearing, Feeling, Acting’.

I am currently working on a monograph on virtuosity and Stage Irishness. This project considers the role that Irishness plays in modernity by examining popular performance in the mid 19th Century and at the end of the 20th Century in London, New York, and Dublin. I examine the role of technique, entrepreneurialism, and modernity in the work of Dion Boucicault and Michael Flatley and in their social contexts. These are both diasporic Irish figures that have been lauded and reviled for their virtuosity as performers, as ‘authors’ (Boucicault as playwright of Irish melodramas and Flatley as choreographer of Riverdance and other spectacular dance shows), and as theatrical entrepreneurs, with their financial acumen forming a companion narrative to their theatrical success. I have published work on the stage show Riverdance, and have developed ongoing research collaborations with colleagues at Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, Queens University Belfast, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Birkbeck, University of London. I recently published an article on Michael Flatley and historical method in Representations journal.

I am developing a research project and network on the histories and cultures of professional identity at the theatre.  I have published articles considering this question, one on the role of relics and remains in Stanislavskian acting practices with Theatre Journal and another on anecdotes, collections and backstage superstitions with Contemporary Theatre Review. This project aims to consider how the identities, values and ethics of the theatre profession emerge through its material cultures, and are maintained by a diverse and often marginal range of theatre workers.

With Les Moran and Daniel Monk at Birkbeck School of Law I have begun to develop work around the question of law and performance, participating in a range of events in collaboration with Paris Eight University and involving lawyers, judges, theatre directors, television writers, visual artists, and scholars. I have published an article on the Tricycle’s production, Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry with Contemporary Theatre Review, which connects my work on Irishness with the question of the law and I intend to include a chapter on eloquence and speeches from the dock in my book on virtuosity and stage Irishness.

With Professor Maria Delgado (CSSD), Dominic Johnson (Queen Mary), Jenny Hughes (Manchester) and Theron Schmidt (Kings College London), I work as Consulting Editor for Contemporary Theatre Review Journal.

With Professor Charlotte Canning (University of Texas at Austin), I co-convene the Feminist Research Working Group at the International Federation of Theatre Research.


  • Books
  • Books


The Actor In Costume (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010): recipient of the TaPRA David Bradby Award for Research in International Theatre

Co-Authored Volumes

with A. Maclaurin, Readings in Costume, forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan in 2014


‘Bad Art, Quirky Modernism’, Representations, Vol. 132, No. 1, 2015.

‘In Defense of Craft: A Manifesto’, Scene, Vol. 2, Issue 1-2, October 2014.

‘Collecting Ghosts: Actors, Anecdotes and Objects at the Theatre’, Contemporary Theatre Review 23: 2 (2013), 146-152

‘This Painful Chapter: Performing the Law in Bloody Sunday: Scenes From the Saville Inquiry’, part of ‘Performing The Peace Process in Northern Ireland’ special issue, co-edited with Caoimhe McAvinchey, Contemporary Theatre Review, 23: 3 (2013), 345-356

‘Objects’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 23: 1 (2013), 53-54

‘Human Remains: Acting, Objects, and Belief in Performance’, Theatre Journal, 64: 3 (2012), 355-371

‘Cross-Dressing, Eugene O’Neill, the Wooster Group and The Emperor Jones’, Modern Drama, XLVIII: 3 (2005), 540-565

‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’: Performing The Diaspora and The St Patrick’s Day Parade’, ‘Special Edition: the Diasporic Imagination’, New England Theatre Journal (2006), 117-129

‘‘The Souvenir From Foreign Parts’: Foreign Femininity In Deborah Warner’s Medea’, ‘Performing Ireland special edition’, Australasian Drama Studies, 43 (2003), 32-46

Chapters in Books/ Research Pamphlets

'Looking for Fiona: Gender and Nationality in the Work of Fiona Shaw', in M. Sihra and P. Murphy, eds, The Dreaming Body: Contemporary Irish Theatre (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe: 2009), pp. 125-137

‘Comely Maidens and Celtic Tigers: Riverdance and Global Performance' (London: Goldsmiths Pamphlet, 2007), pp. 1-20

‘Predicting the Past: The Work of Female Theatre Directors’, in G. Harris & E. Aston, eds,Feminist Theatre Futures? (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 88-105

‘Elizabeth LeCompte’ & ‘Deborah Warner’, in M. Shevtsova & S. Mitter, eds,  Fifty Key Theatre Directors(Routledge, London & New York, 2005), pp. 206-212 & 257-262

'The First Funny Medea, Deborah Warner's Medea', in E. Weitz, ed., The Power Of Laughter (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2004), pp. 19-32

Critical Interviews

‘Interview with John Collins’, in Margherita Laera, ed., Theatre and Adaptation: Return, Repeat, Rewrite and Revisit (Bloomsbury: forthcoming in 2014)

‘Interview with Fiona Shaw’, in W. B. Worthen, ed., The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama (Wadsworth, 2003), pp 120-122

Book Reviews

‘Review of Costuming The Shakespearean Stage’, Theatre Notebook, 67:1 (2013)

‘Review of Crossroads: Performance Studies and Irish Culture’, TDR, 56:2 (2012), 205-206

‘Review of Theatre & The Body by Collette Conroy’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 21:1 (2011), 71-2

‘Review of Theatres Of The Troubles: Theatre, Resistance and Liberation in Ireland’, TDR, 55:3 (2011), 184-185

'Review of Cool Britannia, eds. Graham Sauders and Rebecca D'Monte', Contemporary Theatre Review, 19:1 (2009), 120-1

Minor publications

‘Programme Note’, The Colleen Bawn, Druid Theatre Company (Galway and Dublin 2014)

‘Programme Note’, Hamlet, The Wooster Group (Dublin Theatre Festival, 2012 and Edinburgh Festival, 2013)

‘Virginia Woolf's play exposes the silly side of the Bloomsbury group’, Wednesday 23 May 2012, blogpost,Guardian Website (

‘Programme Note’, Don Giovanni, English National Opera (London: 2010)

‘Programme Note’ Twelfth Night, Cheek By Jowl Theatre Company (Dublin Theatre Festival, 2002 and Sydney Arts Festival, 2004)

LCACE funded report on volunteering for Scene and Heard (London: 2008)


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

Public Engagement

Author of various publications for The Guardian newspaper and the Times Higher Education

Keynote speaker, ‘Performing Space’ public symposium, Dublin Theatre Festival (2014)

Director, dramaturg and fundraiser for Scene and Heard children’s theatre charity, London (2005-present)

Speaker on Boucicault for The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond as part of a symposium to accompany their production of Boucicault’s The School For Scheming in April (2014)

Speaker on ‘Controversies’ for the newly instituted Be Birkbeck membership scheme, aimed at the general public – selected as the representative speaker for the School of Arts (2013)

Public Interview with Fiona Shaw for the Dublin Theatre Festival (2013)

Speaker on Boucicault for the Irish Literary Society, London (2013)

Director of a rehearsed reading of Freshwater, a play by Virginia Woolf, performed in the J.M. Keynes Library as part of Birkbeck Arts Week (2012)

Speaker for the English National Opera pre-show debates (2010-present)

Irish Arts Council funded internship, the Wooster Group theatre Company, New York (2003)