Dr. Tom Cornford, BA (Hons), PhD, FHEA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Dr Tom Cornford, BA, PhD, FHEA

Job title

Lecturer, Theatre and Performance


I’m an academic and a director and dramaturg. At Central, I’m a lecturer in the Drama, Applied Theatre and Education team and teach students on the MA Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy. I supervise PhD students whose projects explore theatre making and its relation to contemporary politics and culture and have examined PhD candidates working on a range of theatre makers and recent and contemporary theatre companies. In 2017, I won the David Bradby Award for Early Career Research in European Theatre.

After an English degree at Cambridge, I studied acting at LAMDA and worked as an actor before moving into directing. I was a trainee director under Erica Whyman at the Gate Theatre and with Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre Studio. While working freelance, I taught in drama schools including LAMDA, Rose Bruford, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I was also a Course Director for undergraduates and postgraduates at Shakespeare’s Globe and regularly taught students at the Centre for Theatre Pedagogy based in Lingen in Germany. After a period as Artist-in-Residence at the CAPITAL Centre in the University of Warwick, I went on to doctoral study there, writing my thesis about the Theatre Studios of Michael Chekhov and Michel Saint-Denis. My first academic post was as a Lecturer in Theatre at the University of York.

I have given public lectures about my research at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Arizona State University and at Shakespeare’s Globe. I have also published articles in a wide range of journals and collections. I am currently completing my first monograph, Theatre Studios: Practices, Philosophies and Politics of Ensemble Theatre Making (Routledge) and am co-editing, with Cass Fleming, Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-first Century: New Pathways (Methuen) and, with Caridad Svich, a special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review on the director Katie Mitchell. I’m also Lead Researcher on an Arts Council and Creative Scotland-funded research project on the employment of people with caring responsibilities in theatre with the campaign group Parents In Performing Arts.


Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, BA

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Teaching Areas

  • 20th Century Theatre History
  • Acting and Actor Training
  • Contemporary Theatre Making
  • Directing and Dramaturgy
  • Playwriting
  • Theatre and Politics

Research Areas

  • Contemporary Theatre Practice
  • Acting and Actor Training
  • Directing and Dramaturgy

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhD projects on: contemporary play-commissioning and play-development processes in UK theatres, actor training for musical theatre, and working as an actor in immersive theatre contexts.

Key Publications

2016. ‘Jacques Lecoq and the Studio Tradition', in The Routledge Companion to Jacques Lecoq, edited by Mark Evans and Rick Kemp (Abingdon: Routledge), pp. 43-50.

2015. 'Acting, Skill and Artistry', in Shakespeare Studies, vol. 43, pp. 88-98.

2015. ‘Training in a Cold Climate: Edited Transcript of Roundtable Discussion with Catherine Alexander, Alison Andrews, Tom Cornford, Matt Hargrave, Struan Leslie, Kylie Walsh’, Maria Kapsali, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 5.2, pp. 219-232.

2014. 'Michael Chekhov: the Spiritual Realm and the Invisible Body', in Theatre and Ghosts: Materiality, Performance and Modernity, edited by Mary Luckhurst and Emilie Morin (Basingstoke: Palgrave), pp. 178-198.

2012. 'A New Kind of Conversation': Michael Chekhov's 'Turn to the Crafts', Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 4:2, pp. 189-203.

2012. 'The Importance of How': Directing Shakespeare with Michael Chekhov's Technique, The Shakespeare Bulletin, 30.4, pp. 485-504.


I was an embedded researcher with Secret Theatre at the Lyric, Hammersmith between 2013 and 2015 and curated public events and discussions about their work. I am a co-director of Common Ground Theatre, based in York, and work as a director and dramaturg with the company, creating performances mainly in non-theatre spaces. Our most recent production, The Lumberjills (2016), was made in partnership with The Forestry Commission and explored the work of the Women’s Timber Corps. I also work regularly as a dramaturg with the dance company Made by Katie Green.

Register of Interest

Nothing to declare.