At Central we believe that research into our disciplines often involves exploration in, and through, the media that we are concerned with. We are well positioned to facilitate practice-based research by virtue of our high-specification performance and rehearsal spaces, design studios, workshops, technical infrastructure and specialist support staff. Such activity always has its contexts, and our academic staff are expert in the connections to be drawn between exploratory practice and advanced conceptualising, process and product, making and articulating. We also support conventional academic scholarship into drama, theatre and performance.
Research here takes place in a lively environment where advanced thinking, laboratory-style exploration and cutting-edge practice all go hand-in-hand. Central is also committed to enhancing your professional development as a future academic in the field, and has a teaching assistant scheme that will give you the opportunity to learn the skills required for teaching. Our culture is one of enquiry, innovation and experiment, where staff and students alike are engaged with new and pioneering ideas and practices, and seek to understand these within a wider field of performance and cultural production. Your eventual PhD submission may be a single and sustained written thesis, or it may feature practice-based presentation(s) alongside a written thesis.
As a specialist centre of excellence, Central is pre-eminent in the UK with regard to the industry-specific facilities which support research through practice. These specialist facilities are at the forefront of what is available in the university sector. PhD study gives you the opportunity to engage with an area of drama, theatre, scenography or performance in depth and at the highest level of scholarship. Central is an obvious home for such research. We have developed extensive connections with all sectors of the theatre industry, as well as expanding international links. As a college of the University of London we continue to build bridges between leading-edge practice and advanced academic enquiry.
Other benefits for a research student studying at Central include:
- first and second supervisors of complementary expertise: with the largest grouping of drama/theatre/performance specialists in the UK, Central offers a wide choice of potential supervisors
- being part of one of the largest gatherings of specialist postgraduates in Europe
- the opportunity to participate in Central’s annual Postgraduate Conference, presenting your work, in a variety of formats, to your peers
- being involved in a community which includes visiting artists and staff who are practitioners in their own fields
- being regularly exposed to, and participating in, the creation of new work in showings and festivals of outcomes throughout the year
- developing and sharing your work in an environment that is equipped for practice-based research
- undertaking training in research methods that are appropriate to your own field of study, including fieldwork, workshop-based enquiry and experimental practice
- being located close to the British Library and the University of London’s Senate House library, to which Central students have access
- having easy access to the cultural centre of London with its performance venues, archives, museums and theatres.
Current areas of staff research at Central include the following:
- actor training
- applied theatre
- devising and creative processes
- digital, telematic and mixed-media production
- drama therapy
- light and sound design
- movement direction
- music(al) theatre
- participatory performance
- regimes of the body
- site-specific performance
- social and political theatres
- Shakespeare and early modern drama
- theatre history
- theatre for development
- theatre and philosophy
- verbatim and witness testimony
You will undertake training in specific and relevant research methods geared towards the demands of your own area of enquiry. Central’s research degrees also offer a full programme of professional development activities, including pedagogies sessions which lead to possible teaching opportunities on our undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
You will develop your work in a facilitative environment, sharing the outcomes of your research with peers. You will present aspects of your work at Central’s annual Research Conference in January and the practice-based Research Festival Collisions in September. At the successful conclusion of your study you will have produced original research that is worthy of publication in appropriate formats and media.
Central has three Research Centres that foster intellectual exchange and build on its extensive industry partnerships, and a professional research and development forum that provides services to its members and visitors: Theatre Applied – Performance and Social Practice; CROPP – Objects and Puppets in Performance; Intermediality in Performance; alongside the membership organisation The International Centre for Voice. See under Research on page 10 for further details.
If you are interested in continuing your studies by embarking on a research degree, please review the research proposal guidance document.
If you are thinking about a research degree, but are unsure of whether you are ready, you could consider the MA Performance Practices and Research, which inducts students into thinking about, and making work at, the cutting edge of the discipline.
Alternatively, if you are more interested in developing your knowledge of the workings and history of theatre as an institution, see Central’s MA Theatre Studies (Performance and the City), which is taught by the foremost theatre journalists, arts managers and historians and uses the course’s London setting as its raw material.
In the Research Assessment Exercise 2008, 55% of Central’s submission was judged as world-leading or internationally excellent. The Drama, Dance and Performing Arts report noted, ‘The sub-panel is struck by the emergence of a new kind of research institution in the performing arts, bridging the creative industries and the academy, and producing a range of outputs relating to performance practices, many through PaR (Practice as Research).’
Some PhD students are currently researching the following:
- Dramatherapy and children and young people with depression: an investigation into evaluation models
- Witnessing change? Problematising the impact of participatory theatre with vulnerable groups at Kids Company
- Navigating irony in female comic performance that proposes, exploits, and implodes a funny/sexy binary
- Intercultural exchanges in theatrical culinary practices: can the performative elements of food and drink be used to explore processes of cultural hybridity through performance practices?
- Intermediality as a process of creation. Intermedial performance praxis-practices and concepts of performance events which, at once virtual and actual, problematise the notion of what is ‘real’ in performance.
- Epistemic performance: mapping the idea of the epistemic performance subject in contemporary live art performance
- Rediscovering Spanish musical theatre: exploring an intercultural adaptation of Copla
- Collaborative artistic vision in theatre-making: a study of the interplay between capital, collective ownership and creating performance
- Puppets and manipulators: ontology, embodiment and presence in contemporary puppet theatre
- To what extent, and how, might the London Turkish Cypriot youth perform their identities through changing spatial narratives and mobility?
- A re-evaluation of Laban principles for actors in view of the Aristotelian Concept of Mimesis.
Recently graduated PhD titles:
- Towards a New Sissiography: The Sissy in Body, Abuse and Space in Dance-Theatre Performance
- The Sense and Nonsense of Comedy and Revolt: relocating the political dimension of performance comedy
- Towards a theatre of psychagogia: an experimental application of Sesame’s methodology to ancient Greek plays, within the context of psychophysical actor training.
If you are applying to transfer your PhD from another institution, the minimum length of study at Central is one year full-time, or two years, part-time.