Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre – Autumn 2019

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre – Autumn 2019

Scream Queer Murder!

On Thursday 7 November, 6-7.30pm, join us for a panel and discussion considering the “gay” characters in Agatha Christie’s work and the R & D of Scream Queer Murder! by Martin Lewton, recently premiered at the International Agatha Christie Festival 2019. The evening includes readings from the play, topped off by a generous dollop of Polari – the secret language gay men used to protect themselves.

This event is free of charge to attend – book here.


  • Andrew McKinnon Theatre Director, and Director of Studies, Institute of the Arts Barcelona
  • Martin Lewton Fellow of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Artistic Director of Theatre Northand ¡Barcelona Solo! Festival, and author of Scream Queer Murder!
  • Julius Green Fellow of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Olivier award-winning theatre producer, and author of Agatha Christie: A Life in Theatre and How To Produce a West End Show
  • Dr JC Bernthal Panel Tutor, University of Cambridge and Visiting Lecturer, Middlesex University, whose books include Queering Agatha Christie: Revisiting the Golden Age of Detective Fiction

Graduate Research in Theatre

GRiT is our termly research seminar, featuring presentations by visiting scholars, faculty and graduate students. There is no need to book in advance to attend.

Wednesday 11 December, 4-5pm (Room 106), Lewis Church (Birkbeck, and independent scholar, writer and producer), ‘Unruly Access’
This presentation will discuss how research on the experimental and sometimes seemingly inaccessible topics of experimental theatre practices of the twentieth century, contemporary live art, and subcultures can sit alongside a parallel professional practice as an arts writer and editor concerned chiefly with notions of access. Both have been enriched by the other, and the attempt to address structural issues in the creative sector, (particularly in relation to gender, race, class and disability) can perhaps benefit from a commitment and attention to the uncomfortable, unconventional and occasionally unruly.

Forthcoming sessions:

  • Wednesday 11 March, 4-5pm (Keynes Library): Ian Morgan (RADA)
  • Wednesday 6 May, 4-5pm (Keynes Library): Sarah Grochala (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)

Birkbeck Theatre Alumni

Birkbeck Theatre Alumni network was set up in 2019 to explore ways for graduates of Birkbeck theatre programmes to stay in touch and share skills, resources and opportunities.

Our first meeting will take place on Friday 29 November at 6-8 pm in G10, 43 Gordon Square. For more information, and to book, click here.

London Theatre Seminar

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre also supports London Theatre Seminar. For the schedule of seminars for 2019-20, click here

For regular Centre news click here or follow us on Twitter @BirkbeckCCT

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Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre – Autumn 2017

Welcome to a new academic year. As the term begins, we are delighted to welcome a number of new Fellows to the Centre, including Lily Hunter Green (as Artist in Residence), Kris NelsonAmy Lamé and Scottee. For more on their work, and our other Fellows and Centre members, please click here.

Join us for a number of public events this term, which speak to the theme of night-life (no booking required):

Theatre Conversation: David Eldridge
Friday 3 November 2017, 5.30pm, G10

Writer and Birkbeck lecturer David Eldridge’s new play Beginning opens at the National Theatre in October 2017. In this Theatre Conversation, David will discuss the process by which he developed this new work, which is set over the course of a night at a party.

Performance: Nights at the Circus
Friday 17 November 2017, 6pm, G10

In a post-apocalyptic world the circus is forced to perform. As the night plays out the performers slip between their stage personas and the person they dream to be; trapped by their own desires and lusting after new sensations. A collaboration between learning-disabled and non-disabled artists exploring sex, desire and violence.

Film screening: Two-Lane Black Top (dir. Monte Hellman, 102 mins)
Monday 27 November, 2pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Join us for a screening of Monte Hellman’s iconic road movie, with an introduction and discussion led by Centre Fellow Andrew Dickson.

Other events this term include:

Theatre Conversation: Hannah Khalil
Monday 11 December 2017, 7.30pm, G10

Join us for a dialogue between playwright Hannah Khalil and screenwriter and Birkbeck lecturer Daragh Carville.

Irish-Palestinian playwright Hannah Khalil is one of the most exciting new voices in British theatre. Her play Scenes from 68* Years ran at the Arcola Theatre in 2016 and has been nominated for the James Tate Black Award. Her new play The Scar Test opened at the Soho Theatre in July 2017.

GRiT seminar series: Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal (PhD candidate), ‘The Value of Authenticity’
Thursday 2 November, 4pm, G04

This research will explore the notion of ‘the authentic’ in service and hospitality work, comparing it with the search for ‘truthful’ or ‘authentic’ performance in theatre. Using workplace training documents which provide instructions for employee’s behaviour and emotional labour, it will consider what role these social performances play in generating value, and why ‘authentic’ experience has become so prized by businesses and consumers in today’s economy.

Researching (with) Difficult Feelings
Thursday 14-Friday 15 December 2017

A two-day training workshop aimed at PhD students at CHASE institutions, featuring presentations by theatre academics and makers, and a keynote by Prof. Jennifer Doyle. Click here for more information.

For regular news and events, keep an eye on our new website or follow us on Twitter @BirkbeckCCT

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‘Sordid Ironies and the Short-Fingered Vulgarian: Alison Jackson’s Mental Images of Donald Trump’ – 22 June 2017

Birkbeck Theatre Conversation
Tony Perucci (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

‘Sordid Ironies and the Short-Fingered Vulgarian: Alison Jackson’s Mental Images of Donald Trump’

Thursday 22 June, 2-4pm
Room G03, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD (nearest tube: Euston & Euston Square)

From the beginning of his 2016 campaign for the US presidency, Donald Trump has employed the strategy of ‘gaslighting’ the American public – willfully challenging their sense of what is ‘fact’ and what is ‘fiction’. As part of her Mental Images series, British photographer Alison Jackson staged scenes with a Trump lookalike of then-candidate Trump in numerous compromising situations. Depicting images of behaviour that would be disqualifying of any other politician, Jackson utilizes the ‘seeming to be real’ to challenge the viewer’s voyeuristic desire to ‘expose’ Trump’s misogyny and racism. As the strategy of exposure continues to be politically ineffective, Jackson’s photographs of the ‘in fact a fiction’ creates an affective charge that performatively constructs a politics of ressentiment focused not merely towards Trump but towards the systemic problems of neoliberal capitalism.

Tony Perucci is a scholar-artist based in the US, where he is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His publications include the books Paul Robeson and the Cold War Performance Complex (Michigan, 2012) and On the Horizontal: Mary Overlie and the Viewpoints (Michigan, forthcoming).

This Theatre Conversation is co-hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality).

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CFP: Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs – Deadline 27 January 2017

Call for proposals

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs

Friday 3 & Saturday 4 March 2017

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre,

Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects & Camden People’s Theatre

**Deadline: Friday 27 January 2017**

This is an open call for proposals from academics, artists, students and writers, for the symposium Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs.

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs focuses on the dynamics of working in pairs across disciplines and contexts.  It marks the conclusion of a long-term series of duet performances entitled The Difference Between Home and Poem, undertaken by Karen Christopher, Artistic Director of Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects.

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs takes Haranczak/Navarre’s duet series as a starting point, to investigate how practitioners in a range of settings work in pairs.  In the field of collaborative performance making, a duet offers the most direct form of collaboration.  If even one member leaves, the duo or dyad dissolves.  However, live performance is only one area that offers the duet form.  The proposed symposium examines a range of working relationships to think about how the pair functions as a working collaborative unit, and why it is so often chosen.

Contributions are invited from people who work in pairs and from those who study the dynamics of such working relationships.  While the symposium departs from the world of arts research and practice, we seek input from researchers across the arts, humanities and social sciences, and from those working in arts, science, healthcare, athletics and construction contexts.  Examples for exploration might include athletes (including visually impaired athletes with guides), double acts (comedy, magic, circus acts), duos (dance, music, theatrical performance, visual art, photography, cinema, writing, arts management), surgeons, construction teams, climbers, or humans paired with animals.

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs is a forum for sharing ideas on the theme of working in pairs, and an opportunity to develop new work.

Call for proposals

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs invites proposals for 20 minute presentations in either of the following formats:

  • academic papers;
  • practice-based or performative presentations.

Additionally, we invite proposals for 20 minute extracts from performance works on this theme that are in development.  Two performance proposals will be selected.  A fee of £100 per performance is on offer to non-affiliated artists.

Questions for exploration include (but are not limited to):

  • what are the differences and similarities in working in pairs between different contexts?
  • what rituals and practices attend working in pairs?
  • what is the role of structure, system, pattern, repetition, intuition and spontaneity in such work?
  • how does working in pairs compare to other modes of collaborative practice?

Deadline for proposals

Please submit 300-word proposals and 50-word bios to by **Friday 27 January 2017**.

Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs is a collaboration between Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects and Camden People’s Theatre.

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CFP: Theatres of Contagion: Infectious Performance Deadline – 20 January 2017

Call for proposals

Theatres of Contagion: Infectious Performance

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, 11-12 May 2017

At least since Thebes was beset by plague, western theatre has incubated a fascination with its own contagious power. This has extended beyond investigating medical and psychological conditions on stage, to both exploring and protecting against performance’s capacity to transmit ideas, illnesses, feelings and behaviours. This two-day Wellcome funded symposium puts the relationship between theatre and contagion under the microscope, to assess it from a range of humanities, medical, psychological and scientific perspectives, and by looking to diverse forms including drama, theatre, live art, dance, musical and cultural performance.

Our central questions include:

  1. How have theatre and performance represented, examined or been implicated in the transmission and circulation of medical and psychological conditions?
  2. How has our understanding of these relationships and phenomena changed over time, across cultures, including via developments in interdisciplinary practice and inquiry?

Keynote speakers:

  • Bridget Escolme (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford)

With performances by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellows:

  • Dickie Beau
  • David Slater and Entelechy Arts

20 minute academic papers or performative presentations might address:

  • How theatre has represented contagious medical conditions: plague and its metaphors in Sophocles and Shakespeare; venereal disease in Ibsen; measles in Shaw; infections and neurological conditions in Beckett; HIV/AIDS in Kushner
  • How theatre has represented contagious psychological conditions: versions of melancholia or depression in Chekhov; hysteria in Miller; madness in Churchill; paranoia and anxiety in Letts
  • The ways in which theatre has been affected by public health epidemics (e.g. plague, sweating sickness, cholera, influenza, HIV/AIDS, ebola), and reacted (e.g. through banning assemblies, withdrawing funding) or been strategically deployed (e.g. to inform and educate)
  • Contagious group emotion and behaviour: yawning, coughing, crying, laughing, violence
  • Scientific, medical, historical and theoretical accounts of how ideas, illnesses, feelings and behaviours spread in theatre and performance
  • The relationship between contagion and affect theory
  • How performance site, architecture, technology and design are implicated in questions and processes of transmission
  • The relationship between immersive practices and histories and theories of contagious performance
  • Performance in digital cultural, and analogies of viral dramaturgies or effects
  • Health, safety and law

Abstracts of 300 words and a short bio (less than 100 words) should be sent to by Friday 20 January 2017.

The symposium can also offer 4 x £50 bursaries to graduate students to help with attending from outside London. Please outline your situation briefly (less than 100 words) if applying one of these. The conference is free, although booking and registration will be required to attend once the schedule has been formalised and announced.

Funded by Wellcome (ISSF) with support from BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality) and Birkbeck Institute for Social Research.

Enquires to Fintan Walsh

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CFP: Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre – Deadline 9 Dec 2016


Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre

Friday 20 January 2017, 11am-7pm

Politics has long been acknowledged as a theatrical arena in which politicians perform their roles. But with the growth of marketing, public relations and celebrity culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, and developments in mass culture and social media, the connection between politicians and performers seems more intractable, and often confusing, than ever before.

In 2016 alone we have seen these dynamics play out in both UK and US political cultures. In her first Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, Conservative leader Theresa May’s delivery was widely received as a strategic mimicking of Margaret Thatcher’s very striking and painstakingly rehearsed mode. In the American Presidential race, part of the appeal of Republican candidate Donald Trump is that he is a global celebrity who has made and unmade personalities on his reality television show The Apprentice, but for others his clumsy improvisation betrays too little substance. Throughout her career, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s voice has been checked for being too shrill, her behaviour too cold, or her words too scripted. Meanwhile, various commentators have attributed the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders to their refusal of spin and the artfulness of public relations. John F. Kennedy’s presidency is remembered for inaugurating a biding link between US politics and glamour, which seemed to crystallise in the election of Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan. More recently, Barack and Michelle Obama rarely shy away from acting or singing in public, and have appeared on numerous talk shows and comedy platforms, sometimes alongside stars of stage and screen, as part of their campaigns – from Zack Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns to James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.

It is against this backdrop that the day-long event asks: how might interpreting politicians and their work through some of the practices and concepts established in theatre and performance studies help us to better understand contemporary political life? The proceedings will consist of presentations, a public conversation and film screening (details to be confirmed).

We invite 10-15 minute presentations that examine the theatricality or performativity of a politician or group of politicians, including as they appear across a range of media (theatre, music, comedy, puppetry, television, film, radio etc.)

Topics for discussion might include:

  • movement and gesture;
  • voice and rhetoric;
  • style, dress and cosmetics;
  • charisma or dullness;
  • narcissism and exhibitionism;
  • sincerity and inauthenticity;
  • engagements with social media;
  • interactions with celebrity culture.

We welcome presentations from postgraduate students, academics and artists working across a range of disciplines including politics, film, media, sociology and theatre and performance.


Email 200 word abstracts and a short bio to by Friday 9 December 2016.

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Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance. 5 & 6 May 2016

Thursday 5 May 1-6pm & Friday 6 May, 10am-6pm
School of Arts, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

Immersive and curatorial strategies are highly current in contemporary theatre, visual art and exhibition culture – bringing audiences into close and often interactive relationships with artistic work. But how else do art, theatre and performance engage ideas of proximity, and how have they done so in the past?


Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance investigates forms of nearness and distance from numerous perspectives: dramaturgical, curatorial, affective, social, conceptual, virtual, geographical. Over a day and a half, artists and writers will share their work on proximity as an idea and as a practice. From the early modern to the contemporary, in examples drawn from southeast Asia to the global north, the symposium explores proximity in relation to a diverse range of topics, including digital networks, architectural design, home, public space, cinema, loneliness, friendship, listening, darkness, museum display, and music.

Conventions of Proximity combines papers, workshops from guest artists in the School of Arts’ studio space, film screenings in Birkbeck Cinema, performance installation, and an exhibition of contemporary art in the Peltz Gallery.

On Thursday 5 May, researchers and practitioners will share their work in parallel panel presentations, from which attenders can make a selection.

On Friday 6 May, film screenings, panel presentations, workshops and a performance installation will run in parallel, from which attenders can make a selection.

Contributors include:
Silke Arnold-de Simine (Birkbeck, University of London)
Maaike Bleeker (University of Utrecht)
Fiona Candlin (Birkbeck, University of London)
Sheila Ghelani
Alison Green (Central Saint Martins)
Peader Kirk & Teoma Jackson Naccarato
Nicholas Ridout (Queen Mary, University of London)
Victoria Walsh (Royal College of Art)

Conventions of Proximity takes place on Thursday 5 May, 1-6pm and Friday 6 May, 10am-6pm. It is free of charge to attend but places are very limited, and booking is essential. The schedule can be seen here.


Co-hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture, and supported by Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image.

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre

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Performing identity and politics: two productions of ‘The Unknown Soldier’ – 19th November

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre is delighted to present a lecture by Professor Hanna Korsberg, University of Helsinki, on Thursday 19 November, 4-5.00pm, in G10, 43 Gordon Square. We look forward to seeing you there.

Performing identity and politics: two productions of ‘The Unknown Soldier’

Hanna will discuss how performances participate in discussing identity and politics. My case study will look at two recent performances: director Kristian Smeds’s production at the Finnish National Theatre in 2007–2009 and Juhana von Bagh’s and Jussi Moila’s radio play The Unknown Soldier – A dialogue with Väinö Linna broadcasted on the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE Radio 1 in 2014.

The productions were based, at least partly, on a very well-known novel by author Väinö Linna published in 1954, discussing the Continuation War 1941–1944 between Finland and the Soviet Union. The productions engaged with social and political reality by challenging the cultural memory of war. An exceptional feature of the productions was intermediality as they moved between art forms: novel, stage production, radio play, film, television and documentary material.


Hanna is Professor of Theatre Research at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include the relationship between theatre and politics in Finland, a topic which she has studied in two monographs. She is also the author of several articles discussing theatre history, historiography and performance analysis.

Hanna has been an active member of the IFTR Historiography Working Group since 2001, an executive committee member in 2007–2015 and a vice president 2015–2019. She has been member of the advisory boards in Contemporary Theatre Review and Nordic Theatre Studies. Also, Hanna is a member of the Teachers’ Academy at the University of Helsinki.

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