Performance@King’s is a cross-faculty performance and theatre research and teaching grouping. This was a corollary of several discrete conversations in different areas of the College, recognising that no such grouping existed, and of murmurs of hope, that articulating performance and theatre through cross-faculty overlaps of thought, collaboration, and a sense of community might lead to new thinking, to working groups, module sharing, events, performances, happenings, or to more conversations. With Creative and External Relations Seed Funding, Dr Kélina Gotman organised a small cluster of faculty members across the Arts and Humanities at King’s, who convened to see if we could gather our energies to articulate one such grouping.
Articulating Performance@ involves some archaeological digging, whilst architectural space has played a role in the history suggested by this archaeology. The Performance Foundation has been used as a vehicle to facilitate large-scale architectural projects to advance theatre and performance research at King’s. When Alan Read was appointed Professor of Theatre at King’s College London in 2006 he joined the School of Humanities to find a university bereft of a landscape for performance. There was no space in existence through which to express or celebrate the interdisciplinary performance-related research and teaching being carried out at King’s. With support from the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (CCH), Prof. Read revived The Anatomy Museum and The Anatomy Theatre from dereliction, bringing these spaces to life as the physical articulation of a unique performance-led digitally informed research profile for the College. Opened in 2012, The Inigo Rooms equally combine display, exhibition, workshop and seminar spaces to open access to the work of King’s Cultural Partners, the Performance Foundation, the Arts & Humanities Research Institute and King’s College artist associates. Such spaces embed performance in the strategy and growth of King’s, giving way to groupings such as Performance@.
The pedagogical practice and research initiatives led or convened by scholars working in Literatures at King’s, has made the English Department a suitable home for theatre and performance. The Performance Research Group operates out of the English Department, taking a ‘broad spectrum’ approach to the study of performance. The group’s members are involved in research in theatre, dance, and live art, as well as in performances operating within a wide range of disciplines, social contexts, and systems. The English Department is also home to an MA in Theatre & Performance Studies and an MA in Shakespeare Studies, taught jointly between King’s and Shakespeare’s Globe. Other Literatures members’ work includes Prof. Sonia Massai‘s ongoing and long-established collaboration with Two Gents, a London-based company specializing in two-man adaptations of Shakespeare in the style of South African township theatre. The Modern Moves project led by Prof. Ananya Kabir, has also brought novel ways of engaging with Afro-diasporic Rhythm Cultures and Embodied Memory.
Translation Studies and Modern Languages remain just as central to an archaeology of Performance@King’s. Prof. Catherine Boyle has been expanding the boundaries of English-speaking theatre from within the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, primarily through the long-running Out of the Wings translation project and collective. Out of the Wings began as a three-year AHRC collaboration between King’s College London, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Oxford, and has significantly increased English-speaking access to Spanish and Spanish American theatre and theatre history. Out of the Wings continues as a research and practice community, organising festivals and performances, and meeting every month to discuss English translations of Spanish or Portuguese-language plays. The collective spans researchers, literary translators, playwrights and practitioners.
Prof. Catherine Boyle is also currently Director of Languaging Acts and Worldmaking, a flagship project funded by the AHRC Open World Research Initiative; she is Strand Lead on “Translation Acts”, focussing on the creation of dramatic narratives. In other areas of Modern Languages, Dr Sanja Perovic of the French Department has been involved in a collaboration with the British multi-media performance artist Stuart Brisley, whilst Dr. Ben Schofield of the German Department was the Globe Theatre Ambassador for Germany as part of the Globe to Globe Festival, itself part of the World Shakespeare Festival and the Cultural Olympiad 2012.
Theatre and Performance is equally bound to the field of history by the work of King’s researchers. Prof. Paul Readman is Director of the major Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project, ‘The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905-2016’. This project has published articles and essays on pageants, and a multi-million-word database with details of over 650 pageants (http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/); it has also been responsible for a number of successful exhibitions on pageantry, in Carlisle, Bury St Edmunds and Scarborough: http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/events/.
Classical drama has been performed at the College since the late nineteenth century, with the King’s College London Greek Play running since 1953. The Department of Classics recently appointed David Bullen as Artistic Director and Executive Producer of The Greek Play. He is currently a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway. In collaboration with students Isaac Freeman (as associate director) and Monica Ruiz Herrera (as lead producer), David Bullen has been involved in ‘Dionysus in the Underworld’. This production comprises Euripides’ Bacchae and Aristophanes’ Frogs presented together in a combination of ancient Greek and newly translated English.
Performance@ is as much grounded in these creative collaborations and activities of its members, as in their scholarly work. This research expands the boundaries of performance studies from within the expanded landscape of performance at King’s. The collective scholarly work of the affiliated members of Performance@ includes topics perhaps familiar to the field of performance studies: labour, liveness, virtuality, presence, myth and tragedy, dance and materialist approaches. Yet, dispersed across the many departments engaging in performance studies at King’s, these themes have been carried out in the context of enquiries into print cultures, Latin American Studies, the French Revolution, translation, Shakespeare, Bowie, Kate Tempest, Film and Performance, and more. Performance@ King’s includes scholarly enquiries into ‘voicing identity’ (Massai); gesture and patterns of symbolic interaction along axes of race and class (Collins); the ethics of movement and the moral right to exclude non-citizens (Fine), or how ‘live art relates to history’ (Perovic). The individual research pages listed on Performance@ give a detailed but by no means exhaustive glance into the performance-related publications, projects and collaborations currently underway at King’s. Please visit our People pages to find out more.