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 an academic and theatre practitioner researching and practicing in the field of applied theatre and sexual health, with a complimentary interest in feminist-led research and the role of women in theatre. I was born in South Africa and have lived between South Africa and Switzerland, where my parents worked, which gives me an insight into belonging to more than one place. I speak French 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.

Since 2003, I have researched and developed social theatre practices as ways of beginning discussions around sexual and reproductive health, predominantly in South Africa, with additional work 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 at the University of Manchester examining applied theatre practice 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 PhD, I have been lecturing in applied and socially engaged theatre here at Central where I teach on the BA in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, the MA in Applied Theatre and supervise PhD students. Previously, I have taught at Goldsmiths on the MA in Applied Drama. I have also taught at the University of Glasgow, the University of Manchester and have offered classes at 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 abroad, including in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo 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 and I am working on my monograph, Challenging Transformation: Applied theatre and sexual health communication in South Africa for Palgrave MacMillan, which considers another way of approaching sexual health communication while also challenging some key tenets held in applied theatre practice, namely an empowerment, transformation and/or impact narrative.

I also work collaboratively as a researcher. 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 also work 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.


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
  • arts & health
  • sexual health communication
  • women in performance
  • performative and practical research methodologies
  • approaches to teaching & learning

PHD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhD projects on Drag performance and scenography but I always welcome hearing about research projects in the areas of theatre & health, applied & socially engaged theatre practices, women in performance.

Key Publications

(forthcoming). ‘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 HIV and AIDS Performance in the Twenty-First Century: An International Collection, edited by Alyson Campbell and Dirk Gindt, (London: Palgrave MacMillan).

2018. (forthcoming). ‘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).

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, co-authored with Munyaradzi Chatikobo. In The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20.3, pp. 381-390.

2015. From the Mouths of Mothers: Can drama facilitate reflective learning for social workers?, co-authored with Amanda Stuart Fisher, Kate Leonard & Anna Gupta. In Social Work Education, 30 November, pp. 1-15.


Much of my research is realised across and through practice, often 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 (PosUK), 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, to address the lack of ‘stories’ about older women living with HIV and to stimulate debate about reproductive ageing in 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. I am also 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