PANEL 2: Practice (practicing) Research

PANEL 2: Practice (playing with) Research

Thursday 14th January 2016 – 11:50AM-1:20PM – Rehearsal Room 3

  • Making ‘The Copla Musical’: Developing a PaR Methodology. Alejandro Postigo

Practice and research are inseparable in my PhD study. My PaR explores the adaptation of the early twentieth-century Spanish folkloric song-form of Copla, by appropriating elements found in Anglo-American musical theatre, namely, book musicals, revues and jukebox shows. Copla ceased to develop during Franco’s regime in Spain (1939-1975), and my practice aims to rejuvenate Copla in an international context while critically reflecting on the intercultural processes that are implicit in this research.

My research questions how to share my experience of Copla with an international audience of diverse cultural backgrounds, and how to do justice to the multiple facets of Copla as a storytelling form, a folkloric genre and a subversive tool. Practice has availed my position as a researcher and as an artist, and it has allowed me to explore changing modes of readability from one culture to another.

In this paper, I will present a critical reflection of elements of my creative practice based on my research frameworks of historical revisionism, musical theatre making and the testing of intercultural theories such as Patrice Pavis’ Hourglass (1992) and Lo and Gilbert’s two-way flow (2002), that propose different models of intercultural exchange between cultures (Spanish and Anglo-speaking in this case).

My creative work evidences my research enquiries by placing its focus in the engagement with audiences, challenging preexisting conceptions of musical theatre and Copla as historically known. In this presentation I will analyze how PaR has become my methodology, and my evolution from creating a traditional musical theatre piece into devising an interactive cabaret. I will show documentation of the various iterations of my practice, and discuss how I interrogate current definitions of interculturalism and the development of contemporary musical theatre in relation to cultural identity through the evolution of this research project.

Alejandro Postigo is a theatre artist and researcher with keen interest in musical theatre and cultural exchange. He is currently working towards a PhD in ‘Intercultural Adaptation of Copla’ having obtained an MA in Music Theatre at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Recently, he has choreographed the musical ‘Nutcracker’ showing at Pleasance Theatre and opera ‘The Merry Widow’, seen at Wilton’s Music Hall, and is also part of the creative team of ‘In The Heights’ currently showing at the Kings Cross Theatre. Alejandro has worked in productions such as ‘Journeys of love’ (Sadler’s Wells), ‘Winter’s Tale’ (Royal Opera House) and the TV sitcom ‘Episodes’ (BBC) and regularly collaborates with the Royal Balllet since 2012. His PaR show ‘The Copla Musical’ has been seen at Hoxton Hall, the Roundhouse, and the Collisions Festival, and it is scheduled to tour America in 2016 (

  • Alice and the Worms. A Performative Lecture. Alice Colquhoun


This lecture will examine ‘Alice and the Worms’ a show performed in Utrecht 2015 for the Rosi Braidotti summer school plenary, Post human/Human/ Inhuman. A one woman solo show, ‘Alice and the Worms’ interrogates the concept of war through a Deleuzian framework and draws inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

The performative lecture will also demonstrate the effectiveness of metaphor in performance, when approaching complex ethical debates. It will discuss how creative practice and in this case ‘Alice and the Worms’ is able to stimulate ‘enacted thinking’ a term from Katy Macleod and Lin Holdridge. It will furthermore draw on the notion of performance as a site of agency. Its ability to traverse academic disciplines, and to develop concrete moments between performer and audience that re-model traditional barriers of academic communication. It will demonstrate the effectiveness of practice as research as a tool to re-inscribe ourselves into our environment. Discussing how the properties drawn from the worm can be seen as a catalyst in which to actively re-imagine more pluralistic, immanent modes of existence. It will furthermore consider performances role in re-vitalising philosophy and generating new ways of thinking and a stronger connectivity to a wider force of life (Braidotti, 2006).

Final reflection will be on the notion of performing theory and the effectiveness of ‘Alice and the Worms’ in enlivening 100 PhD students, studying post- human philosophy in Utrecht 2015. The worm will weave a path, scattered, reconfigured, digesting and regurgitating theoretical frames. The worm will attempt to explain that without practice we are in danger of becoming locked in theory, without intersections we may not harness the widest periphery, and without earthworms we may be drowning in debris.

Alice Colquhoun is a practice as research PhD candidate, studying at the University of Roehampton. Alice is a fully funded TECHNE student who is exploring New Materialist methodologies and performance. Alice is interested in using performance to merge disciplines and connect matter within a wider political ecology. Alice’s work looks at the role of performance to muddle and re-frame questions surrounding ethics, environment, technology and science, and the ways in which we deal with our knowledge of human history. Alice is furthermore interested in promoting larger entanglements of performance and theory in academic learning spaces.

  • Subverting Theory in Postdramatic Theatre. Silvia Dumitriou


The attempt to align deconstructive theory with the requirement of live presence in postdramatic theatre creates new paradoxical and aporetic interpretations of the traditional instruments of theatre: text is involved into the impossibility of its reception, re-presentation of character is desirable but relativized through a misunderstanding of the text logic, the theatrical situation is frustrated by accidents, the emotional element is misplaced or only merely displayed, action no longer intentional but durational. Theatre as a ‘space without unconscious’ (Neveux 2013), brings to the fore the blunt and disorderly image of the world whose theatricality is pervasive, if theatricality is understood as the term by excellence referring to a lack of origin. The mimetic principle that offered an overarching structure for signification and meaning is therefore supplanted and critiqued in the disillusioned, cynical and skeptic  theatrical regime of postdramatic. This new and very diverse theatre practice can be identified as post dramatic first of all formally, through the emphasis on multiplicities and also on open form; nevertheless, this practice is correlated to an aesthetic strategy, the discovering of new ways to attempt to subvert the linear and advance the relevance of the relational. I will argue that the caesura that inaugurates postdramatic is the emphasis on the relational, which is consistent with the insistence on the political as a fundamental dimension.  I would like to argue that a recuperation of theatricality as an aesthetic principle governing the authenticity and the meaning of the staged events is prevented by a theatricalizing on the stage of quotidian action, presence, language. I would like to advance the idea that theatricality as an aesthetic principle is brought to the fore by acts of subversion of theory, whereas theatricality as non-originary descriptive approach is but a reflection of theories, especially the deconstructive one. The problems I attempt to refer to are: what are the consequences of overturning the mimetic model and how does the adoption of ideas of the Derridian ‘concepts’ of writing and difference into the aesthetic vocabulary affect the very possibility of conceiving the specificity of theatrical language?  I will advance the idea that postdramatic theatre thrives on restructuring available language and bring to attention the ambivalence of misunderstandings present and possible in the discursive space. “The relationships between theory and practice are far more partial and fragmentary… No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary to piercing this wall” (Deleuze in Foucault 1980:206)

Silvia is a translator of theatre plays and theatre journalist. Her particular artistic and research interests are related to new theatre work, contemporary texts and theatrical structures. As a director she has created independent theatre projects and she has worked with awarded professional actors of the best institutional theatres in Bucharest Romania. Two of her stagings, “Partners in Crime” by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt and “Zoo Story” by Edward Albee, have participated in numerous theatre festivals in Romania in 2007-1012. As a playwright she has written “Merry Arcadia”, a commedia dell’arte piece for 21st century, and “Cruel Games” a farce about capitalism and schizophrenia. She has translated more than 10 contemporary plays from French and English into Romanian, among which the translation of Sarah Kane’s play”4.48. Psychosis” constituted the final MA Playwriting dissertation. Other translated authors include Jean Cocteau, Eric Emmanuel Schmitt, Horovitz or Bernard Marie Koltes. She has presented the paper “Theatricality” at Tapra Conference 2014, Glasgow.

  • Alice and the Worms. A Performative Lecture. Alice Colquhoun


Red Kettle Theatre Company was a mainstream regional Irish theatre company that operated in Waterford from 1985 to 2014, and it is the subject of current doctoral research. Using performance studies as a methodology, this research explores the dramaturgy of the Red Kettle archive to identify the ethnography of regional Irish theatre and the social-critical performative aspects of the creative and administrative strands of the company. In its infancy, performance studies marked its territory as ‘in opposition’ to the mainstream theatre, and an enormous gap opened up between the two very different performance cultures (Schechner, 2000). However, Schechner believes that mainstream theatre is a fertile area that performance studies should explore. When mainstream theatre is investigated from a performance studies perspective, a point of intersection occurs between the two cultures, blurring the boundaries between the mainstream and the avant garde.  Furthermore, performance studies offers a mode of practice to the ‘conventional’ researcher, made manifest in the ‘as performance’ acts of exploration and writing. Through these constructive acts the researcher views the trajectory of Red Kettle as a ‘performance’ and occupies a symbiotic role of actor/spectator as she examines the performance of another through a performance of her own. This pushes the limits of what can be interpreted as practice-as-research while allowing the performance studies methodology to become the practice. Additionally, the actor/spectator role reverberates with the many figures and organisations that the research comments on and comes in contact with, creating a constant interchange of process and product. Examining the multiple actor/spectator intersections that the Red Kettle research flags, this paper explores the emotional and ideological consequences of these exchanges while pushing the form of both performance studies and mainstream theatre analysis.