The Institute of Performance

The Institute of Performance was founded in August 2016 to support, develop and enrich cultural research at the University of Surrey and beyond through critical thinking, writing and making.
It is the research hub of the Guildford School of Acting, one of the UK’s leading performer training conservatoires. We collaborate with a wide range of arts organisations, researchers from other institutions and disciplines, as well as creative practitioners to facilitate a space for discussion, creative exchange and collaboration, and as a means to positively contribute to the social, political and cultural challenges of the contemporary world.

Capitalising on our research excellence, the Institute fosters inter- and cross-disciplinary initiatives, cultural engagement and research dissemination. The Institute’s events are often open to the public and we seek to engage a range of audiences in creative and critical encounters and discussions.

Research excellence

Our goal is to share knowledge and understanding about performance and culture in ways that are inclusive, dynamic, challenging and innovative. As such, our vision is to be an internationally leading focal point for the study of performance and culture, with particular focus on agenda-setting research in four key areas:

  • Politics and/in Contemporary Performance
  • Global Shakespeare
  • Performance and Material Cultures
  • Philosophical and Critical Approaches to Performance

Encompassing both ‘traditional’ and practice based modes of research, our distinctiveness lies in our ability to generate research across a broad spectrum of cultural practices, ranging from studies of transnational dance practices to investigations of trauma and performance, Deleuzian approaches to performance to explorations of theatre in crisis zones, analysis of site-specific performance and climate change to anthropological investigations of costume cultures. While there are distinct but complementary specialisms across our researchers there is also ongoing dialogue through interdisciplinary seminars (within and beyond the Institute), workshops, symposia, conferences and performances.

Research centres associated with the Institute:

Centre for Performance Philosophy



Programmes associated with the Institute:

BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance

BA (Hons) Dance

PhD Theatre

PhD Dance


Core researchers

Dr Adam Alston: aesthetics and politics of audience participation; immersive theatre; theatre and darkness; labour and performance in theatre settings and the service industry; secrecy in theatre and service industry marketing; Marx and Marxism; the philosophy of Jacques Rancière.

Dr Stuart Andrews: performances of place; tourism as performance; thresholds in performance; climate change, performance and loneliness; performances of home.

Dr Jaq Bessell: innovations in Shakespeare in performance; psychology and performance; directing; actor training; practice as research.

Dr Laura Cull (Lead, Centre for Performance Philosophy): Performance Philosophy; 20th and 21st century experimental theatre; authorship, collaboration, collective creation & audience participation; time and duration; non-human animals in performance; manifestos; relationship between performance and mental health.

Dr Patrick Duggan (Director, Institute of Performance): performance and material culture; critical approaches to performance; trauma, performance and ethics; contemporary performance practice; contemporary tragedy; politics, ideology and theatre; performance in crisis zones.

Dr Shantel Ehrenberg: dance and philosophy; dance pedagogy; kinaesthetic empathy; screen dance; choreography, dance and medical discourses.

Dr Rachel Hann: material cultures of performance design, costume, and architecture; practice research; scenography; Modernist Performance; Performing Technologies.

Dr Sabine Sörgel: Postcolonial theatre and performance; contemporary dance and dance theatre; theatre and ritual; identity and performance.

Dr Anne Sophie Refskou: Shakespearean stage praxis (early modern and contemporary); Global Shakespeares; Shakespeare and national/cultural identity and cultural diplomacy; Intercultural performance, adaptation and appropriation; Physical theatre; Cultural history of emotions, historical phenomenology and affect; Theatre and compassion.

Darren Tunstall: gesture in performance; Shakespeare; physical performance and Lecoq; cognitive science and performance.

Dr Matt Wagner: Shakespearean dramaturgy and stage praxis; theatrical temporality; Beckett and his contemporaries; embodiment and spatiality; theatre phenomenology.

Further information

For further information please contact:

Dr Patrick Duggan
Director, Institute of Performance