In Spring 2015 ran Performing Research – a project which brings together artists and academics at Newcastle University together to explore and create new theatre inspired by academic research.
An evening of new theatre was performed by the academics and shown at Northern Stage to a sold out audience of 72. The piece was well received by the audience who commented that they had enjoyed the performance and that the content was thought provoking, enabling them to engage with the research.
All pieces were highly co-produced by artists and researchers. The artists took the role of provokers and curators enabling the researchers to create and perform original pieces. This was done through the use of devising techniques, questioning, building group consensus and enabling democratic decisions to be made.
Research participants commented that they liked working with the artists and other researchers from across the university – “True collaboration /interesting people from across the University and beyond” and they valued the “chance to explore ideas in a dynamic and supportive environment”.
Cap-a-Pie and associate artists worked with academics to explore Sebastian Potthoff’s research into habits. Other individuals research was fed into the making of the pieces.
The project fostered learning and thinking for Cap-a-Pie and associate artists into how to create art with academic research. The piece of theatre we produced was artistically successful, achieved through focussing on one piece of research to inform each of the pieces. We explored this research from different artistic perspectives including literal and abstract pieces.
Emerging theatre maker Stephen Redman was given space, support and responsibility to develop his practice as a participatory theatre maker. He spent time with artistic director Brad McCormick prior to each session to plan his work. This gave him the confidence to work with the group and allow them to create in response to his stimulus. He was pleased with the way he facilitated the group to create content and bring together their piece.
We were very pleased to work with dancer Martin Hylton on the project. Martin has strong ideas around facilitation and building performance and this helped Cap-a-Pie artists develop through observation and conversations with Martin especially around curation and ensuring the group’s work is democratic. We look forward to inviting more guest associate artists to bring new ideas to Performing Research in the future.
Impact for Researchers
At the scratch night researchers engaged a theatre audience in their work through a newly created piece of art. Art enables the viewer to become an active participant in understanding the research through creating connections with their own experience, lives and understandings. Feedback from audience members showed a strong emphasis on people thinking and connecting with their own lives and through this gaining understanding and awareness.
Researchers gained engagement, creative and arts skills that can be used in future research and public engagement work that will enable them to develop strong Impact Case Studies in future work. Researchers were asked “Do you feel Performing Research had an impact on your work as a student/researcher/lecturer or in future aspirations (i.e. further studies, training, jobs)?” On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being no impact 10 being the most impact) the average answer given was 7, with answers between 5 and 10. When asked to explain this answer further researchers stated that Performing Research had informed their teaching work, enabled them to rethink their research ideas and explore how to explain them in different ways, rethink their research approaches, think about presenting skills and how to structure presentations to share research.
Researchers felt that Performing Research had helped them to share their research both within the scratch night and within other engagement activities. Some had gone on to use, or to consider using, skills learnt in Performing Research in other engagement activities. There also seemed to be raised awareness of the benefits of sharing research findings and a desire to do this.
Feedback flagged up that the programme particularly broke down barriers, pushed boundaries and enabled new links to be made (often interdisciplinary) with audiences, creative practitioners and each other.
Several researchers commented that the exercises and techniques we had shown them in Performing Research were useful in their teaching, lecturing and research projects allowing them to engage more meaningfully and effectively with students and colleagues.
We have many researchers returning to Performing Research. There is a strong bond between all members of the group and it is clear they enjoy the work. All researchers were asked whether they would take part in Performing Research again and 100% of respondents answered yes.
Students have commented that Performing Research has given them employability skills – i.e. increased confidence speaking to groups for someone who is looking to be a teacher.