PANEL 8: Practice (mixing) Research

PANEL 8: Practice (mixing) Research

Friday 15th January 2016 – 2:00PM-3:30PM – Rehearsal Room 1

  • Clod Ensemble : Creative Collaboration: Practice meets Research. Dr Sophie Lally


Clod Ensemble is an arts organisation that works at the intersection between practise and research and regularly collaborates with researchers and academics.

This summer we were invited by The Place to lead a three day Choreodrome workshop called Creative Collaboration: Practice meets Research aimed at  early-career researchers and emerging choreographers. Over a series of workshops we worked through a number of questions around the challenges of collaboration. We investigated how relationships between people from different fields could be nurtured, how academic research could be seen as a creative practice and how the artist could be positioned within the academy.

Drawing on the experiences of Suzy Willson (Clod Ensemble), David Harradine (Fevered Sleep), choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh and Professor Roger Kneebone (Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow) we identified seven ways the artist and researcher might collaborate and drew out some important areas to consider when collaborating.

In this session Sophie Lally, Researcher in Residence with Clod Ensemble, will share some of the learning from the programme – considering ways to navigate the complex and often emotionally charged realities of collaboration especially when crossing disciplinary borders. Drawing on two strands of thinking prevalent in Clod Ensemble’s practice, she will look through the lens of Jacques Lecoq’s fundamental treatise that “everything moves” considering how the meeting of the scholar and practitioner can begin outside of spoken language with the aim of developing a common vernacular. She will also consider collaboration in the context of complexity theory as per Eve Mitleton-Kelly (LSE) as a way of challenging ideas surrounding hierarchy, exclusion and methodology in interdisciplinary work.

  • Theatre as research in clinical settings; adopting a mixed-method. Dr Persephone Sextou


Theatre for children in hospitals (TCH) is a comparatively new practice to other theatre practices in the community and urges our efforts to evaluation in need of creating new ways of looking at the living experience of hospital life through the art form. In search of an appropriate and efficient approach to the evaluation of the TCH practice, experimentation with mixed methods is required. The critical departure of the methodology that I present in this paper is in the need for finding combinations of more traditional research methods and tools (i.e. interview, questionnaire and journals) with an arts-based approach (i.e. performance) to investigate the impact of the performance on the participants through reflection. The two together, traditional and arts-based research methods, seek patterns of meaning that contribute to a better and fuller understanding of TCH. Drawing on the applied theatre methodological approaches of O’Connor & Anderson (2015) and Balfour et al. (2015), I clarify that the methodology I use is partly similar to ATAR (Applied Theatre as Research). It is not about using theatre in research as one-way process of generating data. It is aimed to be a reciprocal process between the researcher and children with their families in hospitals. I value performance as central to the study and I recognise children as both participants in performance, and judges who are fit to criticise our practice. Performance is vital to the methodology and it is difficult to separate it from the research. This is because of the significance of the participatory nature of TCH within research. This study is about evaluating theatre with those involved in performance in hospital as research. In the absence of ‘hard data’ to prove that theatre for children in clinical settings is an effective methodology, I adopt a mixed-method approach.

Dr Persephone Sextou is a Reader in Applied Theatre at Newman University Birmingham (UK), and the research director of the Community & Applied Drama Laboratory. She has secured a grant from BBC Children in Need (2016-19) to continue her research on the impact of specially-developed performance for children’s wellbeing while they are in hospital. She works in partnership with NHS Trust, and educational organisations in Europe and W. Africa. She is the author of peer-reviewed articles, chapters and monographs. She acts as member of Editorial Boards for the Arts & Health, the Applied Theatre Reader and, the Arts in Communities Journals.

  • Keeping Research Live. Dr Joseph Dunne


Samuel Beckett’s maxim to “fail better” reflects the truism that practice research demands that the researcher be responsive to what occurs before their eyes, a condition that demands them to continuously experiment with their methodology. Translating this process into writing, however, is too often accomplished by traducing the dynamism of embodied acts into a linear narrative, despite the fact that the documents produced during workshops or rehearsals often exist in fragmentary forms. Diana Taylor (2003) delineates between embodied and written forms of knowledge by using the categories of the archive and the repertoire, yet the line between them is highly porous: Writing can function as a generative record of future live acts in as much as documentation produced from a performance creates an afterlife for it. The function of performance documentation must be re-framed to reflect the live qualities of the archive. For this reason theatre and performance students ought to be taught how to design and implement a documentation strategy that does not seek to preserve their practice research process in perpetuity but instead produces a set of catalytic materials. The practical component of my doctoral thesis Regenerating the Live: The Archive as the Genesis of a Performance Practice examined how documentation can be integrated into live performance in an effort to stretch its lifespan beyond the event sphere. Using the conclusions I drew from the workshops I conducted in site-based contexts, I will explicate how documentation bridges the artificial gap between research and practice by encapsulating the experience of the ‘doing’ of research whilst inviting future readers to create new practice from it.

Dr Joseph Dunneis a research associate at Rose Bruford College. His specialisms include the performativity of archives, site-specific and site-responsive performance, immersive theatre, and historical re-enactments. Joseph is a founding member of the performance collective Tracing the Pathway ( with whom he is undertaking a practice research project Fluid Ecologies, which to date has been conducted in the UK, Finland and Greenland.


  • Actor/spectator? … When one becomes two: an interchange of process and product. Elizabeth Howard


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.

After completing an MA in Performance Making at Goldsmiths College, London and a BA in Drama and Counselling from the University of Chester, Elizabeth was awarded a PhD scholarship from Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland. Entitled Performing the Region, her research project uses the Red Kettle archive as a primary source and examines regional theatre in relation to cultural policy. Elizabeth is a theatre maker and teaches on the theatre studies programme at WIT. She has presented papers at seven conferences over the past two years. Her first publication will be with Palgrave Macmillan next year.