Dr Martin Welton, BA (Hons) and MPhil (Birmingham), PhD (Surrey)
Reader in Theatre and Performance
I have worked at QMUL since 2002, shortly after receiving my PhD from the University of Surrey, and having spent some time working as a performer making experimental dance and theatre. My teaching and research cover a range of topics including contemporary theatre and dance, theories of atmosphere, sensory cultures, and the intersections of performance and tourism. In all of this I maintain a close relationship to professional artistic practice, in collaborations with Rosemary Lee, Sound&Fury, Battersea Arts Centre, Robert Cohan, Rift, Seth Kriebel and Alexander Whitley amongst others.
- Reviews for Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan, McFarland, Contemporary Theatre Review, Theatre Research International, Studies in Theatre and Performance, Ambiances, Platform
- Mentor for Kings/QMUL/UCL BMentor academic mentoring programme 2018-present.
- Muge Özbay ‘Dancing Together: Affect, Time, and the Political In-Between Bodies’, Goldsmiths University of London, 2018
- Katherine Graham ‘Scenographic Light: Towards and Understanding of Expressive Light in Performance’, 2018
- Roubicek, Bruno ‘Performing Social Labour: Digging, Dwelling and the City’, Birkbeck University of London, 2017
- Alissa Mello ‘Puppets, Presence and Memory: The Training Methods and Workshop Techniques of Compagnie Phillipe Genty, Stuffed Puppet, and Inkfish’s Three Good Wives’, Royal Holloway University of London, 2014.
- Eugenie Pastor ‘Moving Intimacies: A Comparative Study of ‘Physical Theatres’ in France and the United Kingdom’, Royal Holloway University of London, 2014.
- Melissa Poll ‘Robert Lepage’s Scenographic Dramaturgy: the Aesthetic Signature at Work’, Royal Holloway University of London, 2014.
- Nidya Shanthini Manokara ‘Stepping into Shringaara: Variations on Love in Modern Bharatnatyam’, National University of Singapore, 2014.
- Simon Donger ‘Gloom: Scenography as a Praxis of Instability’, Central School of Speech and Drama, 2013.
- Grisana Punpeng ‘Meditation in Motion to Mindfulness in Performance: A Psychophysical Approach to Actor Training for Thai Undergraduate Drama Programmes’, University of Exeter, 2012.
- John Matthews ‘What is Called Training? A Metadisciplinary Account of Training for Performance’, Roehampton University, 2009
- Matteo Bonfitto ‘The Kinetics of the Invisible: Acting Processes in Peter Brook’s Theatre’, Royal Holloway University of London (2007)
- External Examiner: MA Theatre Practice, University of Exeter, 2018-present
- External Examiner: BA (Hons) Acting, Falmouth University, 2015-2018
- External Examiner: BA Acting Global Theatre, Regents College, 2012 – 2016
- External Examiner: MA Dance Cultures, University of Surrey, 2010 – 2015
- External Examiner: BA Theatre Studies, Birkbeck University of London, 2007 – 2010
- External Validator: BA (Hons) Performing Arts, Melton College/University of East Anglia, February 2016.
- External Validator: BA (Hons) Acting, Falmouth University, June, 2013.
- External Validator: Re-crediting of MA Theatre Studies and MA Dance Cultures, University of Surrey, March 2011.
- External Validator: University of East London MA/MSc Interactive Digital Media, (2009).
- External validator: University of Roehampton internal review of BA Honours Theatre Studies degree (2008).
- External Validator: Central School of Speech and Drama, external adviser to parts 1 and 2 of QA approval for MA’s in Movement Training for Actors and Screen-Based Performance.
I teach both seminar and practice-led learning across all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate provision in Drama. I’m the module convenor for the year 1 practice-led module Beyond Acting, which invites all students in Drama to consider what kinds of theatre we might make if we leave out pretending to be someone you’re not – acting. We gather weekly for exploratory workshops, trying out a range of different approaches to making theatre, before forming small groups working towards a performance that builds on what students have learned. My year 3 module Just for Tourists? is a seminar course which examines the close relationships between theatre and tourism, from the numerous kinds of theatre that are ‘staged’ for tourists, to the practices of performing and spectating that they in turn engage. We consider a range of historical and cross-cultural examples, before beginning fieldwork in London, and developing our own models and ideas of tourism as performance.
I have taught on:
- DRA118: Performance Texts in Practice
- DRA237: Dance Theatre
- DRA252: Acting Theory
- DRA302: Beyond Acting
- DRA340: Just for Tourists
My research covers a series of intersections between contemporary theatre and choreography as they engage with concerns for affect, atmosphere and the senses. I am interested in how theatre practitioners and audiences ‘make sense’ of the unusual ways that they are sometimes invited to look at, feel or listen. Working closely in collaboration with artists and cultural organisations is central to my research, and has variously meant participating in and observing production processes as a performer, director, dramaturg and critic. Finding new means by which academic research might support and collaborate with cultural industries is increasingly important to me, and in 2016 I oversaw the Drama department’s acquisition of a £250K Digital Studio, through which motion-capture, spatial audio and VR technologies work to support MSME artists and organisations.
The Senses in Performance
This was the subject of my first book Feeling Theatre, that considered a continuum between emotion and the senses in making and watching performance. Over the last two decades I have conducted a sustained enquiry into the history and phenomenology of darkness and shadow in the theatre and in 2017 co-edited Theatre in the Dark with Adam Alston, the first book-length publication on the subject. In 2018, this led to a series of co-curated talks and performances with Battersea Arts Centre, looking at the legacy of their innovative Playing in the Dark season in 1998 and to a chapter in Timothy Edensor and Nicholas Dunn’s book Rethinking Darkness. This research has also involved practice-led enquiry as a theatre maker and performer including The Watery Part of the World with Sound&Fury (2003), and Vom Verschwinden der Schatten with Theater Feuerblau (2015).
Much of my most recent research concerns the intersections between mood, environment and aesthetics that are apparent when theatrical events are described or experienced as ‘atmospheric’. This is the subject of my current monograph project Theatrical Atmospheres: Performance in an Age of Ambiance. In 2017, Penelope Woods (QMUL) and I co-curated the conference Staging Atmospheres for the Reseau International Ambiances network (International Ambiances Research). Together with Chloé Déchery (Paris 8) I am the coeditor for a special issue of the journal Ambiances on Staging Atmospheres. I am also a coeditor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Ambiances and Atmospheres with Rainer Kazig (Grenoble), Damien Masson (CY Cergy Paris), and Izabela Wieczorek (Reading).
Since working as a performer for the choreographer Emilyn Claid, I have had a strong interest in phenomenology and politics of movement. This has also fed a further interest in dance and choreography as transnational practices. Since 2011 I have been a co-director of ArtsCross, an international choreographic research network, that has received funding from the AHRC (£35,879), and TAL Foundation amongst others. This long-term initiative has brought together academics and artists across cultural, national and artistic borders and includes collaborations with the Beijing Dance Academy, Taipei National University of the Arts, and the universities of Exeter and Middlesex. Since 2011 it has held meetings in Taipei, Beijing and London and has led to the creation of eighteen new intercultural performances.
I have a long-term critical engagement with the work of Rosemary Lee. As well as writing about her work in 2012 I collaborated with her in the production of an interactive DVD On Taking Care which reflected on her 2008 performance Common Dance. Together with Lee and Artsadmin I co-curated a symposium, On Taking Care, which brought together artists, philosophers and health and social care professionals to discuss the nexus of touch and care reflected in Lee’s performance.
In 2017 I co-directed Forest Revisited for Sadlers Wells with the choreographer Robert Cohan, drawing on archive footage and interviews to inform a creative process that has fed into my ongoing research on affective atmospheres and aesthetics.
In 2016 I oversaw the Drama’s acquisition of a £250K Digital Studio, through which motion-capture, immersive audio and VR technologies work to support MSME artists and organisations. This has supported a number of artists’ work, including collaborations with the Alexander Whitley Company and Seth Kriebel and Zoe Bouras. In 2017, I was awarded £59,369 by the AHRC’s Next Generation of Immersive Technologies scheme for a collaboration with RIFT theatre using motion tracking, VR and spatial audio technologies. This led to the production of Void, an immersive theatre performance for the 2018 London Vaults Festival, and a prototype ‘gesture-driven ambisonic environment’.
- with Adam Alston (), Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre; London: Bloomsbury, 2017
- Feeling Theatre; Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.
- ‘Going Dark: The theatrical legacy of Battersea Art Centre’s Playing in the Dark season’ in Tim Edensor and Nicholas Dunn (eds.), Rethinking Darkness: Histories, Cultures and Practices; London: Routledge (2020, forthcoming).
- ‘In Praise of Gloom: The Theatre Defaced’ in Adam Alston and Martin Welton (eds.), Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre; London: Bloomsbury, 2017, pp.244-264.
- ‘Footage: Surface Feelings’ in Nicola Shaughnessy (ed.), Affective Performance and Cognitive Science: Body, Brain and Being; London: Methuen, December 2013, pp.159-169.
- ‘From Floor to Stage: Kalarippayattu Travels’; Douglas Farrer and John Whalen Bridge (eds.) The Embodied Mind: Transnational Martial Arts; New York; SUNY Press, 2011, pp.161-184.
- ‘Seeing Nothing: Now Hear This…’ in André Lepecki and Sally Banes (eds.), The Senses in Performance; London and New York: Routledge, 2007.
- ‘Making Sense of Air: Choreography and Climate in Calling Tree’; Performance Research, Vol.25, No.3, 2018, pp.80-90.
- ‘Dark Visions: Looking at and in Theatrical Darkness’; Theatre Journal, Vol.69, No.1, 2017, pp.497-513.
- ‘Dancing with the Sound of Birds’ Atmospheres and Translation in ArtsCross/DansCross’; Journal of Choreographic Practices, Vol. 7, No.2, 2016, pp.229-253.
- ‘The Possibility of Darkness: Blackout and Shadow in Chris Goode’s Who You Are’; Theatre Research International; Vol.38, No.1, 2013, pp.4-19.
- ‘Getting Things Off the Ground: Pedestrian Feelings’; Performance Research: On Foot, Vol.17, No.2, 2012, pp.12-17.
- ‘Listening-as-Touch: Paying Attention to Rosemary Lee’s Common Dance; Performance Research: On Listening; Vol.15, No.3, 2010, pp.47-54.
- ‘Feeling Like a Tourist’; Performance Research; 12.2, 2007, pp.47-52.
- ‘Just for Kicks’; Contemporary Theatre Review; Vol.16 No.1, 2006, pp.153-158.
- ‘Once More With Feeling’; Performance Research; 10.1, 2005, pp.100-112.
- ‘Against Inclusivity: A Happy Heresy About Theory and Practice’; New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2003, pp.347-351.
- Co-editor of Routledge Handbook of Atmospheres (with Damien Masson, Rainer Kazig and Izabela Wieczorek, forthcoming).
- Co-editor of Staging Atmospheres special issue of Ambiances (with Chloé Déchery, forthcoming 2020).
- Co-editor with Paul Rae of ‘On the Road’ special issue of Performance Research, Vol.12, No.2, 2007.
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.
I have supervised the following successful PhD projects:
- Andrew Wiskowski ‘Aesthetic Collectives: Being and Intersubjectivity in Collective Cultural Performance (2019)
- Rachel Gomme ‘Being Here Now: Performance, Presentness, and the Opening to Wonder’ (2018)
- Colombine Gardair ‘Audience Interaction in Street Performances’, co-supervision with Prof. Patrick Healey (EECS) (2013)
- Charikleia Marini, ‘Theatre Out of Place’ (2013)
- George Home-Cook, ‘Stretching Ourselves: The Phenomenology of Sound and Listening in Contemporary Theatre’ (2013)
- Jen Mitas, ‘Work, Emotion and the American Method’ (2009)
The continuing development of a strong relationship between HE and the cultural sector is an important aspect of my work. As well as working directly on creative projects, I also seek to support artists and institutions in producing talks and events. Selected examples include:
- Co-curator with Battersea Arts Centre for Sound and Vision a series of performances and talks; Battersea Arts Centre, May-July 2019; £5,000 QMUL research collaboration grant.
- Co-curator with Battersea Arts Centre for Theatre in the Dark a series of performances and talks; Battersea Arts Centre, February-June 2018; £10,000 QMUL research collaboration grant.
- Project consultant A House Repeated Scratch performance for Seth Kriebel, Battersea Arts Centre, October 2015
- Director The Bridge Project, Queen Mary University of London, February – September 2005. Artist-directed research sponsored by a £10,000 grant from the Westfield Trust. Projects supported included: The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination’s G8 tour in 2005, Sound&Fury’s Kursk at the Young Vic Theatre in 2008 and 2009, and Bock and Vincenzi’s L’Altrove which was selected as the British entry for the 2006 Venice Biennale.
- Co-director with Robert Cohan for Forest Revisited; Sadlers Wells, June 2017
- Developed for Sadlers Wells Knowbody festival this intergenerational performance brought together cast members from the original 1977 London Contemporary Dance Theatre production of Cohan’s Forest with young alumni of the National Youth Dance Company. As well as co-directing the revisiting of his original choreography with Cohan, I produced and edited a series of dramaturgical interventions by archive and rehearsal footage
- Co-director of The Loss of Shadows; practice-led theatre and darkness project with Theater Feuerblau (Austria); British Council and Austrian Cultural Forum funding (September 2015)
- Feeling Spaces: Phenomenal Modes of Spatial Awareness in an Acting Process, June 2006 – November 2008. Collaboration with Theater ASOU (Austria), investigating theatrical space as an embodied process. A performance developed within it - Unknown Origin/Ursprung Unbekannt - toured in Austria, Albania, Russia, Romania and Great Britain.
- Working with the Graz-based Theater Feuerblau, I co-devised and performed in this production drawing on historical and philosophical conundrums posed by shadows
- Once More with Feeling, April 2003 – April 2004. Professional collaboration as an actor and devisor with Sound&Fury in the development of The Watery Part of the World.