Research Seminars 2014

19 November 2014, 5.30 pm: Dr Eva Urban, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, Manifesto: theatre against reification

This paper asks how drama, theatre-making, theatre-spectating, and theatre-participating can create dynamics necessary to enable a move from reified consciousness towards the development of autonomous responsibility, true solidarity, civil courage, resistance and protest. Drawing on a close reading of Adorno’s essay, “Education after Auschwitz”, Dr Urban will develop an argument that an analysis of a reification that reduces human relationships to mere business interactions has been a central concern of modern drama. She suggests that this theme continues to be represented internationally, in contemporary political plays and performances, across a range of across a range of genres and grounded in a variety of dramaturgical principles. The paper will conclude by outlining a manifesto for political drama and theatre practice to work against reification.

Eva Urban is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and an Associate of Clare Hall, Cambridge. She is the author of Community Politics and the Peace Process in Contemporary Northern Irish Drama (Peter Lang, 2011), and her articles on political drama and Irish Studies have been published by Oxford University Press, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, Cambridge University Press, and in New Theatre Quarterly, Etudes Irlandaises, and Caleidoscopio.

Wednesday, 1 October, 4.30 – 5.30 pm Professor Robert Gordon, Director, The Pinter Centre, Goldsmiths’ approach to Practice based Research, in the context of REF

Professor Gordon will offer a reflection on the emergence of PaR as a form of research admissible in Research Assessment Exercises, of the kinds of projects which are now included under this term, and of the way in which Goldsmith’s research strategy has addressed PaR. The presentation will be discursive and open to dialogue and debate.

Robert Gordon is the former Head, Performing Arts, Goldsmiths and Director of the renowned Pinter Centre for Research and Creative Practice, based at Goldsmiths. His research has focused on the dialectical relationship between practice and critical reflection. His monographs include: Pinter’s Theatre of Power (Michigan Modern Dramatists. 2010); Purpose of Playing: modern acting theories in perspective (University of Michigan, Theater: Theory/ Text/ Performance series, 2006); Stoppard: Text and Performance (Macmillan.1991). He has recently edited the Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies and is working on the Oxford Companion to the British Musical.

The Pinter Centre takes as its point of departure the subversion of colonial aesthetics in British and postcolonial theatres, with the aim of mapping the fracturing of narrative across literary and performative modes and genres. With Professors Helen Carr, Blake Morrison and Osita Okagbue, the Centre includes conferences, a range of books, performances, papers, DVD-Roms. His practice-based research on ‘Space, Place and Performance’ (2001-4) was a joint project with the theatre designer Dr Kiara Pipino, School of Architecture, University of Genoa. As director of the prize-winning Postcards from a Journey at the Borga d’Autore in Liguria in 2002, he devised and directed a site-specific production of Calvino’s Le Citta Invisibile, a bilingual production utilising thirty locations in Rapallo, and adapted and directed the first stage version of Barrico’s Novecento at the Teatro della Clarisse, the Portofino harbour and Porto Antico. Subsequent productions included a site-specific performance of Stephano Benni’s Astharoth and a promenade performance of Spoon River Anthology. Other Practice based Research projects include, Shylock’s Ghosts (with Professor David Peimer, Global Shakespeare Congress, Prague; In Pinter’s Rooms (devised, created, directed with David Peimer; EU-wide tour). Gordon and Peimer are currently working on a major Shylock/Caliban project which will tour venues in the UK, South Africa, and Berlin.

25 June 2014, 4.30 pmDr Laura Haughey, University of Waikato, New Zealand, “Choice. Control. Expression. Freedom. A model for Disability Arts in the work of Equal Voices”

Equal Voices is a multi-arts company delivering innovative inclusive participatory projects in a wide range of contexts. The company’s varied cross-arts work practice, which spans film, theatre, music, photography, and visual arts, opens multiple possibilities for engaging the highly diverse groups of people the company works alongside. Equal Voices frame their practice with reference to the social model of Disability, where ‘disability is the product of the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers present within society, which lead to discrimination’: removal of discrimination requires a ‘change of approach and thinking in the way in which society is organised’ (Graeae, 2009: 6). This change in approach and thinking is addressed in the great majority our projects, which all have social change at the core of a design explored in various artistic contexts rather than a ‘mainstream emphasis…on impairment avoidance and reduction’ (Shakespeare, 2002: 13). Activists have long taken the view that a radical approach is needed: we must demolish the false dividing line between ‘normal’ and ‘disabled’ and attack the whole concept of physical normality. We have to recognise that disablement [impairment] is not merely the physical state of a small minority of people. It is the normal condition of humanity. (Sutherland, 1981: 18)

Many Equal Voices projects include film-making, where our co-makers share their stories, lives and experiences with those who watch the films. Benefits of this practice range from raising awareness of issues our participants choose to highlight to actively challenging preconceptions of disability from differently held points of view. The films are participant led and the company as filmmakers take roles as facilitators and in the process learn the delicate art of assisting people in the sharing of their stories or ideas they wish to convey. This presentation explores Equal Voices’ work within a paradigm of practice-led research with reference to the social model. It looks at the differences between inclusion and integration and the common misconceptions with the terminology and aspires towards an ‘embodied ontology’ (Shakespeare, 2002: 2).


Equal Voices,


Shakespeare, T. (2002) The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? in Research in Social Science and Disability Volume 2, pp. 9-28 at:

Sutherland, A. (1981). Disabled we stand, London: Souvenir Press.

Laura Haughey

24 June 2014, 1.30, Professor Victor Merriman, Theorising the Flourishing City: from Enfield to Anfield

The Institute for Creative Enterprise, Edge Hill University, will host an Ideas Exchange on the research theme: The Flourishing City

1.00 Lunch

1.30 Professor Victor Merriman, Theorising the Flourishing City: from Enfield to Anfield

2.00 Ideas Exchange: a series of open discussions on responses to the theme as set out, with a view to identifying potential research questions, themes, and processes

18 June 2014, 4.30 pm

Dr. Kate Katafiasz, Exploring Identity and Difference in Edward Bond’s Tune

The ongoing collaboration between Big Brum Theatre in Education Company and playwright, Edward Bond, began some seventeen years ago, and is the subject of Kate Katafiasz’s doctoral research.  Katafiasz states that Big Brum has grown used to wrestling in rehearsal with complex interactions between coded and uncoded states in Bond’s plays: In Tune (2011), for example, Robert, angered by his mother’s boyfriend Vernon, transforms into a ‘boy-wall’, before Vernon deliberately wounds him to corroborate a lie. This seminar paper explores three key scenes from Tune to investigate shifts in Bond’s dramaturgical episodes from representation to event; from the mimetic, iconic, or figurative ‘dominant performative discourse’ (Butler, 1993), where physicality is obliged to endorse the signifier, to what Elizabeth Wright (1998: 31) terms ‘a reality outside representation’. To enable this investigation, the paper proposes an innovative reading of Heidegger’s, Identity and Difference in dialogue with Lacan’s The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious. Both works were published in 1957, and Katafiasz argues that they resonate strongly with each other; each positing a non-binary account of affiliation – between Being and beings (Heidegger), and metaphor and metonymy (Lacan). Each describes a fluid rapport –   ‘perdurance’, ‘souffrance’ – between coded and uncoded positionality, with Lacan’s anti-representationalist position arguably forming the basis of Deluzian, Foucaultian and Lyotardian moves.  Though he does not literally do so, Lacan claims to ‘translate Heidegger’ (2006: 528), and Katasfiasz follows this conceit through to arrive at a fertile topological nexus, a critical tool linking philosophy and psychoanalysis to semiotic structures directly applicable to performance.

Dr. Kate Katafiasz ( is Senior Lecturer in Drama at Newman University in Birmingham, UK, and Associate Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Fine Art Research at Birmingham City University. Peer-reviewed publications on Edward Bond’s plays include:

‘Staging Reality (beyond representation): a perplexing Bondian body’, in JCDE, Journal for the Study of Contemporary Drama in English: Volume 1, (2013), Berlin: de Gruyter

‘Failed embodiment, silent speech, and ontological intermediality in Edward Bond’s production of The Under Room’, in Body, Space & Technology Vol. 11 No 2 (2013), [online] Available at

‘Quarrelling with Brecht: understanding Bond’s post-structuralist political aesthetic’, pp. 237-251 in Studies in Theatre and Performance, Volume 28: 3 (2008), Bristol: Intellect.

Wednesday 14 May, 4pm-6pm

Dario Fo, Franca Rame, and Italian Civic Life: A seminar convened by Prof. Joseph Farrell (University of Strathclyde), Visiting Professor in Radical Comedy at Edge Hill University

Wednesday 14 May, 7pm: Marina De Juli presents Tutta casa, letto e chiesa: monologues by Franca Rame

Venue: CE017 (Lecture Theatre), Creative Edge Building

Professor Joseph Farrell was the last person to interview Franca Rame before her death in May 2013, a conversation published as Non è tempo di nostalgia (Pisa: Della Porta, 2013). His biography, Dario e Franca: la biografia della coppia Fo/Rame attraverso la storia italiana, (Milan: Ledizioni, 2014) was launched by Professor George Talbot, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, EHU, at this event.

Wednesday 5 March, 5.00 pm (PA 54, Performing Arts building):

Prentki poster 250214


The first seminar in the 2014 series was given by Tim Prentki, Visiting Professor in Radical Comedy, member of the Performance and Civic Futures Research Group: Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, was the date chosen by Prentki to tease out a radical reflection on a familiar dichotomy between that season’s privations and the exuberant carnival of Shrove Tuesday. He writes, “In Breughel’s painting of The Battle Between Carnival and Lent the centrepiece is a fool who leads a couple away from the scene of the ‘battle’. Where is the fool leading the pair? Prentki reads the painting as an allegory for the folly of organising our world according to binaries fossilised in habitual conflict. Instead, the fool offers play: imagination, humour and the refusal of fixed positions, as a way of understanding and enjoying the human condition. The presentation will explore moments of theatre across the ages where a fool has undertaken the function articulated by Breughel. Binaries are replaced by contradictions as foolish figures attempt to undermine the tropes of authority not by overt, violent opposition but by wielding those weapons over which the fool has mastery: wit, irony and contradiction. In conclusion Prentki will invite seminar participants to consider what playing the fool can contribute to some of the urgent political questions of our day such as inequality, planetary exhaustion and unemployment. Is a political fool an oxymoron or is folly the means of escaping the all-encompassing nets of ideology?” ENDS

Prentki’s suggestion that the politics of ‘Austerity’ are, in important ways, a kind of new and unending Lent addresses a central concern of the Performance and Civic Futures Research Group. Thus, his discussion of folly, like many jokes told in the theatre, has clearly serious intent: to consider the contours and dynamics of the role of performance practices in imagining an alternative politics of human flourishing grounded in the ‘cultural variety and utopian potential’ of urban environments. (Jen Harvie, Theatre& The City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009): 49)

Last updated on Last updated on Was this page helpful? Yes No Thanks for your feedback! Please tell us more: