I am honoured to be Professor Emerita at Central and to be able to continue my connection with the vibrant research culture that Central offers to students and colleagues working in creative industries.
My first career as an actress began when I was twelve years old. I trained at Arts Educational (London) but left school at fifteen to make the televised film series Here Come the Double Deckers (1970) going on to more acting work in television and then theatre. My academic training, therefore, started rather later as a mature student at Kingston University (BA English) where I returned as a part-time lecturer to work with a team founding a new drama degree programme (2000). My postgraduate degrees were undertaken in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London (MA in Research, 1997; PhD, 2000), where I then took up my first full-time lectureship (2001). I taught theatre and performance history, creating undergraduate courses in Restoration Theatre, West End and Commercial Theatre, Melodrama, and Comedy, that revived and revised the stories of women and performance practice from 1660 right up to contemporary stand-up performance. I was Director of Graduate Studies for four years and Head of Department for a further three years, during which I took a leading role in delivering the department’s landmark Caryl Churchill Theatre.
My research and publication work is interested in looking at the histories of theatre in terms of archeologies of performance: uncovering the methods and forms in which we frame stories about past theatre and performance events and suggesting new ways to seeing those findings. I am particularly interested in the way we tell stories about women as performance practitioners and how such stories are made and told by today’s practitioners. My work as a child actress on British TV is the subject of a chapter in Entertaining Children. The chapter in Women and Comedy and the collection of monologues included in Plays and Performance Texts by Women 1880-1930 further my ongoing research in the cultural politics of women’s performance work on stage and screen. In 2018 a chapter on the work of writer and comedienne Mabel Constanduros, an early pioneer of comedy broadcasting by B.B.C. Radio, with be published in Stage Women: Female Theatre Workers, Professional Practice and Agency in the Twentieth Century – 1900-1950s, taking my work on women’s performance histories into the twentieth century.
I am the outgoing Chair of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA); honorary life member of the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD); a member of the peer review college for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and a member of Equity.
My work at Central over the past four years has enabled me to share the value of theatre histories and performance research directly with theatre industry partners. I have been Principal Investigator with a Central research team working in collaboration with Tonic Theatre’s gender equality project, Advance and you can see more about the start of that work in 2014 and our work as academic partners with the 2016 cohort of organisations.
In 2017 I was historical dramaturg for two ‘forgotten’ plays by women given staged readings at Northern Stage, Newcastle; one directed by RSC’s Erica Whyman, the other by Rebecca Frecknall. You can see a short interview with Rebecca Frecknall which followed a staged reading of Jane Scott's 1814 melodrama Whackham and Windham the Wrangling Lawyers.
This year I have spent time with the RSC’s cast for The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich (RSC Swan, March-June 2018) talking about the playwright Mary Pix and the actresses she wrote for in this wonderful comedy from 1700.
I currently hold a funding award as a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow, enabling me to complete my research on a one-women show created by London actress Emma Stanley which she toured to North America, Australasia and India between 1856 and 1860. The outcomes of this and other work on women on the international touring circuits of the long nineteenth century will be the focus of a colloquium co-curated with Dr Kate Flaherty at the Australian National University in Canberra, February 2019.
I am no longer undertaking supervision of research students but I am happy to respond to email enquiries on any aspect of my research work.
2018 (forthcoming). ‘Mabel Constanduros: Different Voices, Voicing Difference’, in Stage Women: Female Theatre Workers, Professional Practice and Agency in the Twentieth Century – 1900-1950s, edited by Maggie B. Gale and Katherine Dorney (Manchester: Manchester University Press)
2014. ‘Shifting Scenes: The Child Performer and Her Audience Revisited in the Digital Age’, in Entertaining Children edited by Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 111-127
2013, ‘The Gerbini Letters; or a Tale of Two Mothers’, in Stage Mothers, edited by Laura Engel and Elaine McGirr (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press), pp. 233-249
2013. ‘Biting the Hand that Feeds Her’, Women and Comedy, edited by Peter Dickinson et.al. (Madison, Teaneck: Farleigh Dickinson University Press), pp. 133-144
2012. ‘Re: Enactment’, in the Cambridge Companion to Theatre History edited by David Wiles and Chris Dymkowski (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 281-298
2012. ‘Women Like Us’ (special edition) Comedy Studies, 3.2. pp. 151-159
2012. Plays and Performance Texts by British and American Women from the Modernist Period 1880-1930, edited by Maggie B. Gale and Gilli Bush-Bailey (Manchester: Manchester University Press).
2011. Performing Herself: AutoBiography & Fanny Kelly’s Dramatic Recollections. (Manchester: Manchester University Press).
2006. Treading the Bawds (Manchester: Manchester University Press).
I have established ways of working with and beyond text in recovering women’s performance work, leading practice research workshops on nineteenth-century melodrama in Boulder Colorado, London Ontario, Santa Cruz and more recently at King’s College London in collaboration with Warwick’s ‘Melodramatic Moment’ project. My book about actress/manager Frances Maria Kelly includes a previously unpublished text of her 1832 one-woman show Dramatic Recollections which has informed a series of auto/biographical performed lectures given in Cardiff, Utrecht, Manchester, Vancouver, Chawton House Library and at Central. The last in this series of performance lectures juxtaposes Kelly’s reminiscences with my own re-membered experiences of being a child performer on television in the 1960s and early ‘70s and has now been made into a 35 minute film: Memory, screens and reflections. It has been shown in Germany and America and a link will be made available here as soon as possible. Please contact me directly if an early viewing of the film is required and I will arrange a direct digital transfer.
Nothing to declare.