Dr. Katharine Low, MA (Hons), MA, PhD | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Dr Katharine E. Low, MA (Hons), MA, PhD

Job title

Lecturer, Community Performance and Applied Theatre


I am a research-practitioner in the field of applied theatre and sexual health. I have worked transnationally in South Africa, Tanzania, Europe and the UK.  I was born in South Africa and have lived between South Africa, Switzerland, Glasgow and London giving me a lived experience of belonging to more than one place. I am bi-lingual in French and English and have a strong interest in transnational currents and initiatives – what it means to make theatre for different audiences, in different ways and across diverse languages. I have a deep commitment to feminist-led research, arts in health and theatre-making in urban settings and the role of women in theatre.

Since 2003, I have researched and developed social theatre practices as ways of beginning discussions around sexual and reproductive health, predominantly in South Africa, and also in Tanzania and the UK. My practice lies in creating participatory-led theatre and creative arts-based practice with local communities to explore and gain greater understandings of the key sexual health concerns facing their communities. I undertook a practice-led PhD funded by a Drama Studentship at the University of Manchester. My doctoral research examined applied theatre practices and sexual health in Nyanga, a South African township. Prior to this, I completed an MA in Applied Theatre (also at the University of Manchester) and an MA (Hons) in Theatre Studies and Psychology at the University of Glasgow.

Since completing my post-doctoral studies, I have taught applied and socially engaged theatre here at Central on the BA in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education and the MA in Applied Theatre. I also supervise PhD students who have an interest in arts and health, refugees performance and queer studies. Previously, I convened the MA in Applied Drama at Goldsmiths. I have been invited to teach at the University of Glasgow, the University of Manchester, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand.

As a researcher, I have shared my research and practice at conferences both nationally and internationally, including in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US and in Sweden. I have published articles on theatre and health in a number of journals and I co-edited Applied Theatre: Performing Health & Wellbeing (2017) with Dr Veronica Baxter for Methuen Bloomsbury. My monograph,  Applied Theatre and Sexual Health Communication: Apertures of Possibility for Palgrave Macmillan is about to be published. This book considers alternative ways of approaching sexual health communication while also challenging some key tenets held in applied theatre practice, namely concepts of empowerment, nudging and questions around value and impact.

Working collaboratively is a core value of my practice and extends to my research and practice with academic colleagues and public sector organisations. In 2012, I was awarded a Higher Education Academy (HEA) teaching development grant with Sue Mayo (Goldsmiths), to research how socially engaged theatre practice is taught at MA level in the UK. I have worked alongside Professor Gilli Bush-Bailey observing and tracking the developments arising from Tonic Theatre’s Advance Project which aims to improve gender equity in English theatres. Between 2012 and 2016 I was a co-convenor of The Theatre and Performance Research Association’s Applied & Social Theatre Working Group.

Most recently, I have collaborated with medical practitioners and NGOs to run projects exploring health concerns and experiences of urban living. Recent collaborations include working with the University of Witwatersrand Wits RHI Hillbrow Health Precinct and Hillbrow Theatre Project at the Outreach Foundation in South Africa and with Positively UK and Dr Shema Tariq ( with the PRIME study) and in the UK (Good Stories)

My current area of research, in collaboration with Diana Damian Martin considers how as new mothers we negotiate academic life and the impetus of care and caring responsibilities which emerge as we navigate the spaces of the neoliberal institution and how to acknowledge our new, different and exciting ways of working.


Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, BA

Applied Theatre, MA

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Teaching Areas

  • applied and socially engaged theatre
  • arts & health, public health
  • research methodologies and ethics
  • practice-based research
  • Southern African theatre and performance

Research Areas

  • socially engaged theatre-making
  • arts and health
  • the cultural representation of women living with HIV
  • sexual health communication
  • women in performance
  • navigating motherhood and academia
  • performative and practical research methodologies
  • approaches to teaching & learning

PHD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhD projects on drag performance, arts and health and refugee performance. I welcome hearing about research projects in the areas of theatre and health, applied and socially engaged theatre practices, women in performance.

Key Publications

(forthcoming). Applied Theatre and Sexual Health Communication: Apertures of Possibility. (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

(forthcoming - February 2020). ‘There is still life in me, despite what I have done’ – Assuaging woundedness through collective creativity, co-authored with Clara Vaughan. In Applied Theatre: Women and Criminal Justice, edited by Caoimhe McAvinchey, (London: Methuen Bloomsbury).

2018. ‘The Press / Supress / Our stories of happiness / They choose to define us / As “suffering headliners”’: Theatre-Making with Women Living with HIV, co-authored with Matilda Mudyavanhu and Shema Tariq. In Viral Dramaturgies: HIV and AIDS Performance in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alyson Campbell and Dirk Gindt, (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

2017. Applied Theatre: Performing Health & Wellbeing, co-edited with Veronica Baxter (London: Methuen Bloomsbury).

2015. Understanding Students Needs In Theatre Practice, co-authored with Sue Mayo. In Masters Level Teaching, Learning and Assessment: Issues in Design and Delivery, edited by Pauline Kneale, (London: Palgrave MacMillan), pp. 14-17.

2015. Applied Theatre from A Southern African Perspective: a dialogue, co-authored with Munyaradzi Chatikobo. In Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20.3, pp. 381-390.


Much of my research is realised across and through practice, primarily working collaboratively and in a participatory manner. I am engaged in a participatory theatre project with women living with HIV: “How do you make good stories about HIV?” – challenging the dominant narrative about women living with HIV. Working alongside Dr Shema Tariq (Clinical Academic, UCL), the PRIME Study, the London-based HIV charity Positively UK, and Matilda Mudyavanhu, freelance theatre practitioner and HIV Youth Consultant, we intend to develop a performance project that brings together theatre practitioners, clinical HIV researchers, and women living with HIV.

The project addresses the lack of ‘stories’ about women living with HIV. In 2012, I co-ran with Clara Vaughan from the Market Theatre Laboratory, a theatre project with female inmates at the Johannesburg Prison, exploring ideas of strength and survival.

In 2018, I began a collaboration with the Hillbrow Theatre Project at the Outreach Foundation in South Africa, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. The project addresses some of the challenges of urban living by using performance-based work and digital storytelling to question, provoke and extend understandings of health rights, access to healthcare and support and the experiences of urban living.

I am a trustee of the London Arts & Health Forum, which looks at the role of culture in wellbeing and promotes arts and health work across the UK.

Register of Interest

London Arts & Health Forum (Charity No 1135543) - Trustee