Prof. Sally Mackey, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD, FRSA, FHEA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Prof. Sally Mackey, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD, FRSA, FHEA

Job title

Professor of Applied Theatre and Performance; Associate Director (Research and Projects)


I started teaching at Central in 1992 as a drama education specialist and am now Professor in Applied Theatre and Performance. After completing a BA in English and Drama at Exeter University and a PGCE at Goldsmiths, I taught in schools (four) for several years before coming to Central. I initially became widely known as co-author of Drama and Theatre Studies (1996, 2000) and editor/author of Practical Theatre (1997), which have been core teaching texts. My MA in Arts Education and Cultural Studies is from Warwick University and, some years later, my PhD also. My main role at Central from 2006 until 2016 was as part of the senior academic management team, with responsibility for key aspects of the taught courses, including quality, development and admissions.  

I founded 'applied theatre' at Central and still research predominantly in this field. I have been the principal applicant for a Leverhulme Trust ‘training’ award which, since 2009, has brought in nearly £450,000 for Central’s BA and MA applied theatre students to undertake outreach placements around the world. A member of the Editorial Board of RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance since its first year, I now also peer review for a number of other international academic journals.

I was a peer review member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council for 12 years and have been on the final commissioning panels on a number of occasions, including for Landscape and Environment (2005-2006), Researching Environmental Change (2010) and Connected Communities (2014). In 2016, I was on the cross-research council panel (RCUK) for assessing applications to Valuing Nature: Health and Wellbeing. Having been awarded an AHRC grant of £130,000 (2011-2014), I led a further AHRC funded project for follow-on impact and engagement, ‘Performing Local Places’ (c. £100,000, 2016-2017) and was the co-investigator on 'Performing Abergavenny' (2013-2014), another AHRC funded research project for the Connected Communities theme. All of this research is undertaken with participant groups as practice research, interrogating how we 'perform' places and reconsider new, embedded or temporary locatedness. I have been invited to speak about this work internationally, including Canada and South Africa. Following on from this, I am working with Bexley Council on a £200,000 award for ‘Performing Places Bexley’ (2017-2019).

I co-edit a book series with Professor Deirdre Heddon, Performing Landscapes, which brings together thinking around ecology, performance and landscape figures. This is a current and critical field of debate in theatre and performance research and practice.

In 2016 I was awarded the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Research in International Theatre and Performance at the 2016 TaPRA Conference, for my work as the Principal Investigator on Challenging concepts of ‘liquid’ place through performing practices in community contexts. The award celebrates outstanding research (including practice-based research) in any area of our discipline. 

Of Challenging Place, the TaPRA judges said:

“From inside, from outside, this project shows change towards place in action and declares its ambition for further work. It is the work of considered scholarship and practice: far reaching, versatile, inclusive and impactful both for the communities with which it worked and for the academic sector which TaPRA represents. The work challenges us to think and work differently and offers a range of case studies on how this might be done. It draws on the author’s sustained reflection and practice and brings together a wide range of methodologies. It is an exemplary example of developing and sharing practice which demands new ways of thinking, seeing and working – a new way to occupy space and identify the place of the theatre and performance research community in today’s lived experiences.”  


Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Applied Theatre, MA

Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, BA

Teaching Areas

  • Applied theatre
  • Philosophy and practice of place and space
  • Site theatre
  • Environmental and ecological theatre
  • Practice research

Research Areas

  • Applied theatre and performance
  • Performance and performative activities within community contexts
  • Performance of 'place' and 'site'
  • Performance and ecology and environmental performance

PHD Supervision

I have supervised PhD theses across a range of areas including: performance of place, community and applied theatre, dis/location, performance and ecology/environmentalism, and the urban. I have supervised exchange PhD students as well as for Central. I have examined 11 PhDs in the UK and South Africa on areas including contemporary applied theatre and citizenship, uses of performance sites, participatory performances and reflections of identity in place and performance.

Key Publications

2016. ‘Applied theatre practice as research: polyphonic conversations’, RiDE: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.

2016. ‘Performing Location: Place and Applied Theatre:’ In Critical Perspectives on Applied Theatre, edited by Jenny Hughes and Helen Nicholson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 107-126.

2013. Cuckoos in the Nest: performing place, artists and excess', Applied Theatre Research, 1.1, pp. 43-61 (with a contribution by Sarah Cole).

2012. 'Of Lofts, Evidence and Mobile Times: the school play as a site of memory' RiDE: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 17.1, pp. 35-52.

2012. (ed. with Dee Heddon) RiDE: Environmentalism, 17.2

2012. (with Dee Heddon) 'Environmentalism, performance and applications: uncertainties and emancipations', RiDE: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance: Environmentalism, 17.2, pp. 163-192

2011. (with Amanda Stuart Fisher) 'Theatre Applications: locations, event, futurity' RiDE: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16.3, pp. 357-364

2011. Co-editor of 'Theatre Applications', RiDE: the Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Vol. 16, No.3

2007. 'Performance, place and allotments: Feast or Famine?' Contemporary Theatre Review 17.2, pp. 181-191.

2007. editor with Nicolas Whybrow, Research in Drama Education 12.1: On Site and Place

2007. with Nicolas Whybrow, 'Taking Place: some reflections on site, performance and community', Research in Drama EducationOn Site and Place, 12.1 pp. 1-14.


My research practice has concerned the performance of place, primarily, and related to AHRC funding awards. Most recently, these have been documented through websites.

I have delivered over 100 workshops to teachers and other practitioners over the years (including overseas in, for example, Hong Kong and South Korea). Other public engagement activities in theatre include chairing the board of Full House, an alumni theatre company, for 16 years. I have been on the Board of the Brit School since 2007.

Register of Interest

Full House Theatre (Charity No. 1165541) – Chair of Board of Trustees

The BRIT School Limited (Charity No. 2369239) – Trustee