PANEL 4: Practice (training with) Research

PANEL 4: Practice (training with) Research

Thursday 14th January 2016 – 2:30PM-4:00PM – Rehearsal Room 3


  • Experiment: Reflections on Nymph Errant. Sherrill Gow


This paper responds to the provocation ‘How does your practice become research?’ by exploring blurred boundaries between my professional practice as a theatre director working in drama schools and the use of this practice as a basis for my research. I ask if formulating research questions can focus a creative process within a pedagogical context. In November and December 2015, I directed postgraduate musical theatre students at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in an in-house version Nymph Errant (1933) with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. A brief Internet search offers the general perception that the central character’s quest is to ‘lose her virginity’, an outdated and problematic premise. This interpretation is however easily challenged; it is possible to critique musical theatre repertoire from a feminist perspective (Wolf 2011) and argue that musicals are open to multiple readings (Kirle 2005). I examine how these viewpoints may be activated in a rehearsal process within a pedagogical context. My conclusion is that identifying the potential and pitfalls of the material alongside the 12 participating students positively impacted the creative and learning processes; as one student reflected, ‘it gave us our own mission – a quest to find a Nymph Errant that we respected and connected with.’

Sherrill Gow is a PhD candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her drama school productions include: Sweet Charity (Mountview);Red the Wolf Slayer, The Twee Musketeers, The Wish, Sleeping Cutie (RCSSD). She has created new works including: MIL-STD-1815 (George Wood Theatre/Au Brana Creative Residency); The Hit (Hotel Indigo, Tower Hill);On Our Street, Broadsheet Ballads (Story of London Festival). Sherrill was an Associate Director at the King’s Head Theatre from 2007-11, where she directed productions and managed the theatre’s trainee director scheme. She trained at The Boston Conservatory where she earned a BFA in Musical Theatre and subsequently completed an MA in Actor training and Coaching at RCSSD.


  • Practice as research into practice: closing the loop. Penny Andrews.


I am a social sciences researcher, artist, performer and athlete. My performance lecture will explore the connections between my research and my practice, and interrogate what those words really mean. As an artist, my practice encompasses text, performance, sound, projection and photography. My work explores issues around complex identities, unruly bodies, gender, social history, UK politics and the interfaces between art, sport and health.

The early years of my undergraduate degree did not require me to read vast quantities of journal articles, but suddenly gaining access to online databases took me back to the library-soaked days of the research projects I set myself in childhood. I fed my brain and that fed my artistic practice. Research (resource-based, empirical, and via the work itself) still informs my practice. The other side of this coin is that I like to do (academic) research that is not merely theoretical, but can have practical impact on those affected by the area of inquiry.

My artistic practice is informed by research, but it is also often a form of research in itself, as is my athletic practice. I am a para-athlete, 100m sprinter with cerebral palsy, a runner made and not born, and research on the body (Braidotti, Allen-Collinson) informs the changes I make to the way I move and think as a runner. The process is thinking as doing, doing as thinking. Carrying out research to construct a body that matches my athletic ambitions and executing visualised performances on the track creates a world in which I can live.

During my PhD in information science I will bring some of this to my methodology, using Archer’s work on meta-reflexivity, Chantal Mouffe’s concept of agonism and Latour’s actor-network theory to explore the performative identities of researchers and librarians. I will be making text works via poetic transcription (Glesne/Richardson), sound pieces, performances (Markula) and zines to help me to make sense of the world and portray the truth of participants’ words beyond selective quotation.

Penny Andrews is an artist, athlete and researcher. Her work examines issues of complex identities, collectivism versus individualism, social history and social technologies.  Recent works include a radio ballad about the Labour party following the 2015 general election, The National Interest, and a short book and performance about running called Run On (created for ANTI festival in collaboration with illustrator Siobhán Britton). She is one of the artists chosen to be part of the Poly-Technic’s Polymath programme.

  • Frogging: A practitioner’s journey in research. Evi Stamatiou


I am a theatre maker who has trained and worked since 2001 both in text-based and devised performance contexts. During my career as an actor I noticed that I was lacking agency during the rehearsal process and performance both in text-based and devised performance contexts. When I started training and working as a director, I noticed that I was suppressing actors’ agency, but even when I tried not to suppress it I realised that often they weren’t able or willing to handle their agency. Bourdieu wrote that ‘I can say that all of my thinking started from this point: how can behaviour be regulated without being the product of obedience to rules?’ (1990a:65) My question of how I could escape feeling suppressed by obeying the rules I I was subjected to as an actor, became more complicated in my role as a director. Rules seemed to be fundamental for the theatre-making process. Maybe the right question would be ‘whose rules am I obeying’? So I started considering how actors can construct their own rules or ‘conception of the good’ and for this purposeI am undertaking this research project towards the construction of a conceptual framework for an actor training device that will enable student actors to find and explore their agency. This conceptual framework is based on six theatrical devices from Aristophanes’ play The Frogs: audience engagement (metatheatre), the chaotic chorus, the grotesque and carnivalesque body, the combination of slapstick and intellectual humour, the literary criticism in form of competition and the parabasis. During the period 2013-2015 I undertook five practical projects, in order to test the use of the six Aristophanic devices in action. My paper will present my practice-based methodology that enabled me to construct a research project that may offer substantial insights into my question that has derived from my past practice as a theatre-maker and actor trainer and can inform my future practice.

Evi Stamatiou is a Lecturer in Musical Theatre at the University of Portsmouth, PhD Candidate in RCSSD and HEA Teaching Fellow. She is an actor trainer and theatre practitioner with 10 years of international experience. She has worked and trained in Greece, UK, NY, Germany, Brazil, Poland and Estonia. She specializes inclowning, working on musical, political, post-modern, experimental, physical, devised performance and multimedia on stage. She is a member of Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, NY and Actors Equity, UK. She speaks fluent Greek, English, Italian and French. You can see more about her work at