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

Dr Tom Cornford, BA, PhD, FHEA

Job title

Senior Lecturer, Theatre and Performance


I’m an academic and a director and dramaturg. At Central, I’m a senior lecturer, teaching students on the undergraduate Contemporary Performance Practice degrees and the MA Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy. My research focuses on relationships between theatre and contemporary politics and culture, and I supervise PhD students whose projects explore this area. I have also examined PhD candidates working on a range of recent and contemporary theatre makers and companies. I won the 2017 David Bradby Award for Early Career Research in European Theatre, and in 2018 I was given the Society for Theatre Research’s Stephen Joseph Award for my research into ensemble theatre making. I sit on the Executive Committee of the Theatre and Performance Research Association as a Working Group Coordinator, and am an Associate Editor of the international, peer-reviewed journal Studies in Theatre and Performance.

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, with Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre Studio, and at Shakespeare’s Globe. 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 keynotes and public lectures about my research in Europe and the United States. I was the Lead Researcher on an Arts Council and Creative Scotland-funded project exploring best practices for the employment of people with caring responsibilities in theatre with the campaign group Parents In Performing Arts. I have also published articles in a wide range of journals and collections. I am currently completing my first monograph, Theatre Studios: A History 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 about the director Katie Mitchell.


Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, BA

Writing for Performance, BA

Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, MA

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

  • Histories of Directing, Acting and Actor Training
  • The Politics of Contemporary Theatre Making
  • Race and Racism

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhD projects that make feminist and queer interventions into actor training, and explore contemporary play-commissioning and play-development processes in UK theatres.

Key Publications

2019. ‘Michael Chekhov: Directing an Actor’s Theatre’, in Russian Theatre in Practice: The Director’s Guide, ed. Amy Skinner (London: Bloomsbury), pp. 95-107.

2019. ‘Willful Distraction: Katie Mitchell, Auteurism and the Canon’, in The Theatre of Katie Mitchell, ed. Benjamin Fowler (Abingdon: Routledge), pp. 72-92.

2018. ‘The Racist Case for Diversity?’, Contemporary Theatre Review 28.4, Back Pages, pp. 553-556.

2018. ‘Tyrone Guthrie’, with Roberta Barker, in The Great European Stage Directors, Vol. 3: Copeau, Komisarjevsky, Guthrie, ed. Jonathan Pitches (London: Bloomsbury), pp. 115-162.

2018. ‘Experiencing Nationlessness: Staging the Migrant Condition in Some Recent British Theatre’, Journal of Contemporary Drama in English 6.1, pp. 101-112.

2017. ‘The Editing of Emma Rice’, Contemporary Theatre Review 27.1, Back Pages, pp. 134-148.

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. ‘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.


I work as a director and dramaturg and was an embedded researcher with Secret Theatre at the Lyric, Hammersmith between 2013 and 2015, working with the company and curating public events and discussions about their work. I also work with the contemporary dance company Made By Katie Green, and Common Ground Theatre, based in York, with whom I most recently directed The Lumberjills (2016), in partnership with The Forestry Commission.

Register of Interest

Nothing to declare.