Below are details of QUORUM 2015-16, which was organised around the theme of applied theatre and included academics, artists, and industry professionals.

For 2015-16 the committee were:

  • Sarah Bartley
  • Ben Walters
  • Josh Gardner
  • Finn Love
  • Billy Barrett


Wednesday 7th October 2015

Simon Casson

Duckie and Class

Duckie is a post-queer performance and events collective that creates “good nights out”, from its 19-year Saturday-night residency at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to Olivier-winning theatre productions and social-outreach projects involving young LGBTQU artists and vulnerable older people. According to the collective’s website, Duckie are “purveyors of progressive working class entertainment”. But are those who create or consume Duckie’s work actually “working class”? What does “working class” mean in this context? Does it matter?

Duckie producer and co-founder Simon Casson will share some ideas, occasionally interrupted by Ben Walters, a PhD student researching Duckie’s work under the supervision of Duckie and the QMUL Drama Department’s Catherine Silverstone. The conversation is intended to be participatory.

Wednesday 21st October 2015

Dr Adam Alston, University of Surrey

The aesthetics and commerce of darkness: dining in the dark from Italian Futurism to global franchise

This paper derives from a larger research project addressing theatre performances that take place in complete darkness and will focus on one aspect of this project: culinary events that immerse diners in darkness, or ‘dining in the dark’. I’ll be reflecting on the aesthetic, ethical and commercial ambitions of artists and entrepreneurs who pioneered various iterations of dining in the dark in the creative and cultural industries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I’ll also be looking at the influence of commercial and social enterprise on the twinned histories and legacies of theatre in the dark and dining in the dark. The historical scope of the paper will be broad, beginning with the global proliferation of commercially-viable electric lightbulbs and their influence on Italian Futurism, and ending with an advertising initiative launched by a popular beverage brand in the month of Ramadan earlier this year, which tapped into the international popularity of dining in the dark restaurants like the global franchise Dans Le Noir? Through a critical examination of visionism, sensationalised blindness, and the spectacle of darkness, I’ll be asking whether the contemporary moment might be ripe for a return to some striking departures from the Futurist mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s – departures that rejected calls to ‘murder the moonlight’ by exploring the rich profundity of darkness.

Adam Alston is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Surrey specialising in immersive and participatory theatre practices, with a particular focus on the aesthetics and politics of audience engagement. More recently he has been addressing notions of labour, secrecy and error in contemporary theatre, and the histories, aesthetics and phenomenology of partial and complete darkness in avant-garde and contemporary theatre and performance. His first monograph, Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in early 2016, and he is currently working on a co-edited collection with Martin Welton (QMUL), contracted with Methuen, titled Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre. He is part of the editorial team for Contemporary Theatre Review’s online Interventions and works as a Creative Associate with the devised, science-led theatre company Curious Directive.

Wednesday 25th November 2015

Dr Eliana Silva (UFRJ) in conversation with Professor Paul Heritage (Queen Mary University)
Someone to Watch Over Me: New ways of understanding the Police, culture and the favela in Rio de Janeiro

How can cultural and artistic initiatives influence public security policy in Brazilian favelas and poor communities? Why do police operations differ in relation to the city neighbourhoods where they are deployed? How does the logic of the war on drugs affect those who live in peripheral communities and favelas where armed drug gangs are present? Someone to watch over me: new ways of understanding the Police, culture and the favela in Rio de Janeiro is a research project led by Dr Eliana Silva (Director of the Maré Networks), who has been awarded a Newton Advanced Fellowship by the British Academy to examine these questions. The project is supported by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and Queen Mary University of London (in collaboration with Professor Paul Heritage, School of English and Drama). Focusing on the consequences of public security policy as it is being implemented in the community of Maré (Rio de Janeiro), the research explores possible ways in which art and cultural initiatives can transform relationships between police and residents.

With a doctorate in Social Services from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RJ), Eliana Silva coordinates the postgraduate course on Public Security in the Departments of Law and Social Services at UFRJ. She is the author of Witnesses of Maré, now in its second edition in Portuguese. In addition to her distinguished academic background and the many years she has served as a community leader in Maré, Eliana’s own personal trajectory deepens her links with the proposed themes proposed of the research. Daughter of immigrants from the state of Paraíba in the North East of Brazil, Eliana was brought up in Maré where she moved when she was seven. There she got married, brought up her two children, went to university and consolidated the community work which she has undertaken for almost three decades. From an early age, Eliana involved herself directly in the struggles and campaigns for community rights. She was President of the Community Association at the age of 22 and in 1996 she founded Redes da Maré (Maré Networks), one of the principal local institutions that has become a national reference for NGOs based in poor communities in Brazil. The activities and actions of the Maré Networks are based on 5 axes: Art and Culture; Education; Territorial Development; Communication; Public Security.

Wednesday 16th December 2015

David Jubb (Artistic Director of the BAC), Louise Blackwell (Co-Director of Fuel), and Alice King-Farlow (Director of Learning at the National Theatre)
Chair: Professor Jen Harvie (Queen Mary University)

Getting in on the Act: Co-Creating Nation

This event seeks to bring into focus the role of participatory practice and community engagement in different theatre’s encounters with notions of nationhood. Speakers from the Battersea Arts Centre, Fuel and the National Theatre will reflect on their practice as organisations and consider how their audiences participate in and co-construct their own understandings of nationhood. We hope to consider whether recent art practice in the UK responds to contemporary understandings of national identity as diverse, fluid and in flux. Further, we intend to examine the civic, community and public functions of contemporary UK theatre practice that engages in discourse of nation.

Wednesday 3rd February 2016

Dr Heather McLean, University of Glasgow

Feminist arts activism: The contradictions, potential and pitfalls of interactive art projects in Toronto.

Heather McLean’s presentation takes up the challenge of enhancing the literature on arts interventions and creative city policies by considering the role of feminist and queer artistic praxis in contemporary urban politics in Toronto. She will analyse an example of community-based arts strategy that strived to ‘revitalize’ one disinvested former manufacturing neighbourhood. She will also reflect on her experience performing drag king urban planner, Toby Sharp. Reflecting on these examples, she shows how market-oriented arts policies entangle women artists in the cultivation of spaces of depoliticized feminism, homonormativity and white privilege. However, she also demonstrates how women artists are playfully and performatively pushing back at hegemonic regimes with the radical aesthetic praxis of cabaret.

Wednesday 17th February 2016

Dr Maggie Inchley (Queen Mary University), Dr Sylvan Baker (Queen Mary University) and Sue Mayo

A Conversation on Participatory Practice

Dr Maggie Inchley and Dr Sylvan Baker have been collaborating with the Greater London Authority Peer Outreach Team in using verbatim theatre practice as a way to gather and perform the stories of looked after young people, adult foster carers and social workers. Exploring how the performance of this testimony can stimulate effective listening and open dialogue, the research situates life experience at the centre of its activities. The project aims to support a child-centred model of residential care, to make a policy impact, and to improve listening and dialogue both within the care system and in the higher education sector.

Sylvan Baker is an Artistic Research Fellow in Drama at QMUL, and a former Associate Director of the arts and social justice research centre at QMUL, People’s Palace Projects. He is currently working on a verbatim project with care experienced young people from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Maggie Inchley is a Lecturer in Drama at QMUL. Her publications include Voice and New Writing, 1997-2007 (Palgrave 2015). She is currently working on an article for US Cultural Studies journal, Lateral, which explores the use of testimonial theatre practice with asylum seekers and to raise awareness of human rights.

Sue Mayo will be focusing on the relational nature of participatory arts work, in particular, the relationships built between participants. This building of relationships takes place in both the structured and unstructured aspects of the work and is given different spaces and opportunities in different art forms. Sue will be reporting directly from current and recent projects, reflecting on the spectrum of participants’ reasons for coming to and staying in participatory arts work, and the role of the artists in facilitating space to explore ‘the between’. Sue will also refer to her current research into gratitude in relationship building.

Mayo specialises in devising theatre with community groups, and frequently works across art forms, in collaboration with others. Sue has worked with LIFT, the Royal Court, The Young Vic, Phakama, the Royal Albert Hall, and is Associate Artist with Magic Me, the UK’s leading provider of intergenerational arts work. In 2015 she directed Speak as You Find, a site-specific performance piece celebrating the myriad real and mythical narratives of Tower Hamlets. Sue has written about the work of collaborative and participatory artists in ‘London Voices’, for the National Trust, ‘Detail and Daring’ for Magic Me, and in “Performance & Community’ edited by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (Methuen 2013) She is Convenor of the MA in Applied Theatre at Goldsmith’s, University of London.

Wednesday 2nd March 2016

Dr Nadia Davids and Dr Bryce Lease

Sequins, Self & Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Pageant Competitions in Cape Town
This project is a collaboration among the Departments of Drama at the University of Exeter and Queen Mary, University of London (UK), The Centre for Curating the Archive and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Africana Studies at Brown University (US) and the District 6 Museum. The primary aims are to research, document and disseminate archives of the Spring Queen and Miss Gay Western Cape pageants performed by disparate coloured communities in greater Cape Town. The Spring Queen pageant is a unique event where coloured female factory workers from the clothing and textile industry in the Western Cape of South Africa compete each year to be crowned “spring queen” of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Worker’s Union (SACTWU). Public resistance to apartheid often resulted in violent racial conflict and for the first time in the garment industry in the 1970s there were acts of retaliation to low wages in the form of strikes. It is within this climate of dissent and harsh backlashes that the Spring Queen pageant emerged around 1978. Local trade unions devised the pageant as a mode of alleviating rising tensions amongst workers. A highlight on the Cape-Town social calendar, up to 30000 supporters attend the final event at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town. This project will situate the Spring Queen as a moment of significant cultural shift. As textile manufacturing increasingly moves to China, this is perhaps the last opportunity to document garment and textile workers in Cape Town. The pageant bears testimony to the lives of Cape factory workers both during and after apartheid. The contestants, who live in the marginalised and impoverished areas, primarily in Atlantis and the Cape Flats, travel into the predominantly “white” city centre for the pageant. Important to these performance events is the figure of the “moffie”, a queer coloured male, often a transsexual, who has traditionally choreographed and designed the pageants, but who is forbidden from competing in them. Miss Gay Western Cape, which grew out of the Spring Queen pageant and the new South African constitution that was the first in the world to include protection for sexual minorities, is a platform for queer non-white persons to perform in a secure environment without exploitation. This project will investigate the significance of these pageants and the performances they engender. By creating an alternative to apartheid-era archives that marginalized these communities, we will engage in the wider democratic practice of reimagining South Africa, first initiated by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. We will consider: the disruption of categories of representation engendered by performance in the pageants; the performance of emancipation and self-determination in the figure of the “queen”; constructions of gender, beauty and alternative sexuality in minority communities; and the continued segregation of space in Cape Town. The project aims to provide a unique perspective on marginalised lives, through an interdisciplinary lens; focusing on visuality, performativity and orality, it will offer a space for previously disavowed narratives to be articulated, which will not only be of benefit to these communities, but to post-apartheid South Africa and postcolonial Africa at large. Collaborative workshops will bring together scholars from performance studies, visual culture, cultural geography, gender and queer studies, digital humanities and African studies. In-depth archival research, the gathering of new and ‘ordinary’ archival material from public and private sources, oral histories and interviews will be made available as a public online archive. The forms of dissemination will have an extensive audience. These will include journal articles, interdisciplinary academic workshops, performance and curation workshops for pageant participants, a documentary and a digital archive.

Bryce Lease joined the Drama Department at Royal Holloway in 2013, having taught previously at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter. Memberships include Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), American Society for Theater Research (ASTR), African Theatre Association (AfTA), Performance Studies international (PSi) and I am a founding member of the Queer Futures Working Group within the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR). My writings on contemporary international performance have been published in The Drama Review (TDR), Contemporary Theatre Review (CTR), Theatre Research International (TRI), Theatre Journal, European Stages and New Theatre Quarterly (NTQ). My research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy, the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD) and the Brown International Advanced Research Institute (BIARI). As well as being an advisory board member for European Stages, I am Assisstnat Editor for the Routledge journal Contemporary Theatre Review, Subject Editor for European and South African Theatre/Performance and board member for the Routledge Performance Archive, co-convener of the London Theatre Seminar, and a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College. I am convener of the MA Theatre Directing with Katie Mitchell, commencing in summer 2017.

Davids’ research sits at a nexus between Postcolonial Studies, Performance Studies and Live Performance. Her work contributes to the performative reimagining of South African archives and stages questions around trauma, cultural memory, the (im)materiality of the archive, of race, place and gender. Through themes of place, home, exile, resistance, and restitution, she examines material loss, engage with performative tactics of re-construction of place through memory, and suggest an ideological flow between oral history, witnessing, and theatre. She references different contexts in which these experiences have been formed — District Six, slavery, colonialism, apartheid, immigration, post-9/11 racial/ethnic profiling, interstitial creolized identity formation-through various creative practices: theatre, short stories, documentary and screenplays. In this, she disrupts the assumed boundary between theoretical and practical work, insisting instead on a relationship of reciprocal intellectual and creative exchange. Her work is disseminated through a variety of forms (journal articles, live performances, published play texts, film documentaries, a novel) to a range of audiences (commercial, academic/educational).

Wednesday 16th March 2016

Daniel Oliver

Weird Séance

Daniel Oliver’s Weird Séances are raucously deconstructionist, roughly layered participatory performances about participatory performance. Each show is haphazardly crow-barred into its site and context; rejigged, added to, undone and perverted so that no two performances are the same. We are in the future looking back on the traumatic incident that occurred right here, in this space, during Daniel’s show. Returning to the site to partially reconstruct the tragic performance, to discuss blame, and to attempt to make amends with those who survived.

Daniel Oliver creates awkward participatory performances that entwine precarious fantasies with clunky reality and foreground the liveness inherent in working with unprepared participants. They are unashamedly dyspraxic, embracing an off-kilter relationship with coordination, social interaction and executive planning.

Wednesday 30th March 2016

Dr Jenny Hughes, University of Manchester
Notes on a Theatre Commons: Common Wealth Theatre’s The Deal Versus the People (2015)

What kinds of relationships can be made between theatre and the idea and practice of the commons? ‘Commons’ and ‘commoning’ are terms that refer to the practice of holding resource open for common use. Here, resource might be understood as all manner of ‘goods’ created and exploited in the process of making theatre – space, time, labour, material commodity – extending to the creative, social and ghostly energies released in the moments of performance. In times of economic austerity and ecological crisis, the commons has gained powerful cross-disciplinary traction, appealing to those interested in engaging critically with neoliberal economic ideologies and systems of State governance. The commons presents a set of ideas and practices useful to those aiming to challenge inequality, work responsibly with resource and support communities under pressure. In this talk, I consider some provocations that the commons presents for theatre, drawing on an experience of taking part in a theatre commons of sorts – as a researcher working with Common Wealth Theatre during their recent production, The Deal Versus The People. Engaging hundreds of people across Bradford in creating a theatrical response to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal between the EU and the US that threatens to further embed pernicious forms of economic liberalization, The Deal Versus The People was performed in Bradford’s Council Chambers in October 2015. Focusing on the performance’s practices of space, communion and aurality, I speculate on the necessary and sufficient conditions for a theatre commons, and consider broader imperatives to develop modes of theatre practice and research that sustain the commons in difficult times.

The talk will include a brief overview of a recent AHRC-funded project ‘Poor theatres: a critical exploration of theatre, performance and economic precarity’ (www.manchester.ac.uk/poortheatres)

Common Wealth Theatre (commonwealththeatre.co.uk) make site-specific political and contemporary theatre. Their productions include the award-winning show No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, recently screened live on BBC4.

Jenny Hughes is Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Manchester. She researches the relationships between theatre and poverty, activist theatres and aspects of applied theatre. Publications include research articles in CTR, RIDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance and Theatre Journal, a monograph – Performance in a time of terror (Manchester University Press, 2011) and a co-authored book (with James Thompson and Michael Balfour) – Performance in place of war (2009, Seagull/Chicago).