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School of English and Drama

Professor Nicholas Ridout, BA (Cambridge), PhD (London)


Professor of Theatre



I grew up in a provincial town in the south-west of England, where I developed interests in both theatre and communism.

I studied English at Cambridge University and then spent a decade in London, working various jobs in order to pay the rent while making experimental theatre and performance. I made an accidental return to higher education in 1997, when I started teaching at what was then called Wimbledon School of Art.  While working there I also started a PhD at Birkbeck, which I completed in 2003, shortly after taking up a full time position at Queen Mary.

My research and teaching today carry forward some of these earlier interests: in theatre, obviously; in communism and Marxist thought and practice; in experimental performance and in the relations among theatre, visual art and literature. I have also developed new interests which now inform both my teaching and research. These include histories of colonialism and of the so-called supernatural.

Professional Activities

  • Principal Investigator, Performance, Possession & Automation, a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2022 - 25.
  • Co-editor, with Patrick Anderson, of the book series, Performance Works, at Northwestern University Press.
  • Editor of Theatre Survey, 2016-18.
  • Long-Term Fellow, International Research Centre, 'Interweaving Performance Cultures', Freie Universität Berlin, 2017-18.
  • Fletcher Jones Foundation Long-Term Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA., 2016-17.
  • Visiting Professor, Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University, Providence, USA, 2010-11 and 2013.


I teach across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the Department of Drama.

With undergraduate students I tend to focus on courses which engage with the histories of experimental theatre, the relationships among theatre, performance and radical politics, as well as courses that explore emotion and the supernatural. With postgraduate students my main focus has been on theoretical questions about theatre and performance,

I have a particular interest in encouraging students at all levels to experiment with how they write and finding alternatives to conventional approaches to academic essays.

Current and recent modules include:

  • Theatre and the Supernatural
  • Feeling It: Emotion and Sensation in the Theatre
  • MA Theatre and Performance Theory
  • Beyond Acting
  • Theatre, Experiment, Revolution


Research Interests:

My main areas of current research, all of which are underpinned by my commitment to a historical materialist study of theatre as a social and economic activity, include:

  • histories and theories of possession and automation in work, acting and performance
  • theatre, spectatorship and bourgeois subjectivity
  • experimental theatre and performance, mainly European
  • opera, especially in relation to 19th century industrial capitalism, fossil fuels and European colonialism



Scenes from Bourgeois Life, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020.

Passionate Amateurs: Theatre, Communism and Love, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Theatre & Ethics, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009.

The Theatre of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio (with Claudia Castellucci, Romeo Castellucci, Chiara Guidi and Joe Kelleher), London and New York: Routledge, 2007.

Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Contemporary Theatres in Europe: A Critical Companion, (co-editor, with Joe Kelleher), London and New York,: Routledge, 2006.


'Intermission' in Shane Boyle, Matt Cornish and Brandon Woolf (editors), Postdramatic Theatre and Form, London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

'Social Functions: Consumers and Producers' in Kim Solga (editor), A Cultural History of Theatre in the Modern Age, London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

'The Trunk-Maker in the Upper Gallery: Performance and Its Publics' in Marta Dwiewanska and André Lepecki (editors), Points of Convergence: Alternative Views on Performance, Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art, 2017.

‘I vivi e i morti: la solitudine in relazione’ in Piersandra di Matteo (editor), Toccare il reale, il teatro di Romeo Castellucci, Napoli: Cronopio, 2015.

‘The Vibratorium Electrified’, in Anthony Enns and Shelley Trower (editors), Vibratory Modernism, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013.

‘The Presence of the Spectator’, in Gabriella Giannachi, Nick Kaye and Michael Shanks (editors), Archaeologies of Presence, London and New York: Routledge, 2012.

‘Opera and the Technologies of Theatrical Production’, in Nicholas Till (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

‘Ice, or a Collective History of the History of our Collectivity in the Theatre’, in Henry Bial and Scott Magelsson (editors), Theatre Historiographies: New Critical Approaches, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.

‘Performance in the Service Economy: Outsourcing and Delegation’, in Claire Bishop and Mark Sladen (editors), Double Agent, London: ICA, 2009.

‘Performance and Democracy’, in Tracy C. Davis (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

‘Di tre tipi di appartanenza’ in Viviana Gravano, Enrico Pitozzi, Annalisa Sacchi (editors), B.Motion Spazio di Riflessione fuori e dentro le arti performative, Milan: Costa & Nolan, 2008.

‘Make Believe: The Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio Do Theatre’, in Joe Kelleher and Nicholas Ridout (editors), Contemporary Theatres in Europe: A Critical Companion, Routledge, 2006.

‘Seeing Undoing’ translated (by Dominique Hollier) as ‘Voir Défaire, in Romeo Castellucci, To Carthage Then I Came, Arles, Actes Sud, 2002.


‘Regarding Theatre’: thoughts on recent work by Romeo Castellucci and Simon Vincenzi, Theatre Journal 66.3 (2014), 427 – 436.

‘On the Work of Things: Musical Production, Theatrical Labour and the “General Intellect”, Theatre Journal, 64.3 (2012), 389 – 408.

‘On the Shameful History of the Amateur’, Frakcija 58/59 (2011), 80 – 91. 

‘Sul tempo, i gatti e sul sentire in commune’, Art’O 28 (2009), 4 – 13.

‘Welcome to the Vibratorium’, The Senses and Society, 3.2 (2008), 221 – 231.

‘The Worst Sort of Places’, Theater, 37.3 (2008), 7 – 15.

‘L’animal dramatique’, Mouvement, January 12, 2008.

‘Art and Theatre’, TATE ETC., Issue 11 (2007) reprinted in The Live ArtAlmanac (2008).

‘Sull’azione, l’inefficacia e Richard Maxwell’, Art’O 22 (2007), 22 – 27.

‘A Song for Europe’, Frakcija 35 (2005) (no page numbers).

‘Tragedy at Home: Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio Play Laban’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 27.3, 83 – 92.

‘Jacques Derrida 1930 - 2004’, Contemporary Theatre Review 15.1 (2005), (with Dan Rebellato).

‘Animal Labour in the Theatrical Economy’, Theatre Research International 29.1 (2004), 57-65, subsequently translated into Croatian as ‘Udio zivotinjskog rada u kazalisnoj ekonomiji’, in Kazaliste 31-32, 2008, 156 – 163.

‘Eat, Drink, LIFT: Reflections on the Festival, TheatreForum 22 (2003).

‘Two Parrots and an Answering Machine: Some Problems with Knowledge and Memory’ Performance Research 7.4: On Archives, (2002), 42-47.

Invited Talks and Keynotes

'All the Time in the World', Istituto di Ricerca di Arte Applicata Societas, Cesena, Italy, 2019. 

'Scenes from Bourgeois Life: The Spectator', University of Malta, 2018.

'Complex Smoking', Dynamics of Interweaving Performance Cultures, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 2018.

'The Sky Will Not Fall on Our Heads', Zagreb Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research Annual Conference, 2017.

'Revival', University of Chicago, DAAD Summer School, 2017.

'The Trunk-Maker in the Upper Gallery: Theatre and Leisure in an Eighteenth-Century Colonial Metropolis', School of Drama, University of Washington, 2017.

'Time, Theatre, Genre: On the Performance Situation and Uneven Development', Histories of Genre, University of California Irvine, 2017.

'The Trunk-Maker in the Upper Gallery: Theatre and Leisure in an Eighteenth-Century Colonial Metropolis', Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University, 2016.

'What did the Trunk-Maker Do in the Audience Revolution?', Department of Theatre, Television and Film, UCLA, 2016.

'Entertainment After Empire', Department of English, University of California Irvine, 2015.

‘Full English’, keynote talk at Contemporary Drama in English annual conference, University of Barcelona, 2015.

'The Trunk-Maker: a scene from bourgeois life’, Aberystwyth University, Distinguished Speaker Series, Politics and Performance International Research Centre, 2014.

‘The Time of the “Animal”’, keynote talk, ‘Bêtes de scène’ conference at Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2014.

‘Performance and Publics’, public lecture, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2014.

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I have supervised around 20 PhD projects on a range of topics. Recent projects have included:

  • Martin Young, 'Theatre in the Time of Capitalism', 2020.
  • Faisal Hamadah, 'Replaying the Social and the Political: Oil, Modernity and Theatre in Kuwait', 2020.
  • Eleanor Massie, ‘Amateurs and Professionals: The Circum-Atlantic Genealogy of Performer Identity’, 2017.
  • Caoimhe Mader McGuinness, “Challenging Liberal Conceptions of the Theatrical Sphere in London, 2009-2015’, co-supervised with Catherine Silverstone, 2017.
  • Kirstin Smith, 'Risky Enterprise: Stunts and value in public life of late nineteenth-century New York', 2017.
  • Emma Bennett, 'Just Joking: Speech, Performance and Ethics', 2017.
  • Francesco Scasciamacchia, ‘Radical or Critical?: Theatrical Politics in Contemporary Visual Art Practices’, 2016. 


Public Engagement

 I have worked recently on collaborative research projects and events, including, recently:

Managing the Radical, a research project with public discussions, at the Live Art Development Agency (2018-19), with Lois Keidan, Amitabh Rai, Gini Simpson, Cecilia Wee and Orlagh Woods.

The Things They Do, a one-day experimental symposium at the Barbican Centre (2016), co-curated with Joe Kelleher and Orlagh Woods.

Performance and Politics in the 1970s, a day of talks, screenings and conversation at the Whitechapel Gallery, in partnership with the Live Art Development Agency (2015), co-curated with Dominic Johnson. 


From time to time I make or contribute to performances, and to the curation of performance events. In 2009 I worked with the director Tim Hopkins, adapting the libretto of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail for a production at Opera North. In 2013, with my colleague Lois Weaver, I co-curated the inaugural Peopling the Palace festival at Queen Mary, and co-created and performed a new experimental theatre piece The State Department Presents (with Lindsay Goss) in Providence (USA). I continue to work with Lindsay Goss, most recently on a new theatre piece entitled quite the best news in some considerable time (2015), revived in 2016 as quite the best news in some considerable time (rinse and repeat version). 

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