Dr. Adam Alston
My research over the past few years has been exploring the aesthetics and politics of audience engagement in a range of theatre and non-theatre settings, focusing especially on immersive theatre and performance. I'm particularly interested in what audiences are expected to do, think and feel in immersive theatre; in the production and consumption of immersive experiences; and the latent political values that emerge through the audience's encounter with different forms of immersive theatre. My first monograph, Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation, is published with Palgrave Macmillan. Another key area of interest is darkness in theatre, and especially theatre performances that take place in complete darkness, as well as other kinds of event and cultural practice - like dining in the dark restaurants. These concerns are addressed in a collection recently published with Bloomsbury (Methuen Drama Engage), which I co-edited with Martin Welton (QMUL), titled Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre. The collection considers the aesthetics and phenomenology of theatre performances that take place in complete darkness, in relation to the uses and roles of darkness in various historical and cultural settings. My research also addresses notions of labour and performance in theatre settings and in the service industry, the uses of secrecy in theatre and service industry marketing, Futurism, dining in the dark, Marx and Marxism, and the philosophy of Jacques Rancière. Most recently, I've been looking at the aesthetics and politics of decadence in contemporary theatre. I am currently co-convener of the Theatre and Performance Research Association's Performance, Identity and Community Working Group, and I'm also a Creative Associate with the devised, science-led theatre company Curious Directive.
Areas of specialism
Theatre in the dark;
Theatre and decadence;
Politics and aesthetics in contemporary theatre
University roles and responsibilities
- Programme leader, BA Theatre and Performance
Affiliations and memberships
Immersive theatre, audience participation, one-on-one theatre and performance, the experience economy, neoliberalism, affect studies, risk, theatre in the dark, dining in the dark, Italian Futurism, labour and performance, Marx and Marxism, the New Left and counterculture, the uses of secrecy, the philosophy of Jacques Rancière, and decadence.
Indicators of esteem
Keynote research papers
[Title TBC]. The Power of Immersion: Performance, Affect, Politics. Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin. 9-13 April 2018.
'Errant Immersion: Mistakes and Accidental Transgression in Immersive Theatre'. Audience, Experience, Desire: Interactivity and Participation in Contemporary Performance and Cultural Industries. University of Exeter, Exeter. 30 January 2016.
'Dining in the Dark: Darkness, Commerce and Disappearance'. Keynote paper. Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. 12 January 2016.
"Affective Societies" Research Centre, Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin - Berlin. 16-20 April, 2018.
2014--17: Co-editor, Contemporary Theatre Review’s ‘Interventions’.
2011--13: Editor, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts
Current undergraduate teaching:
THE3022 Performing Audiences
THE2030 Design Dialogues
THE1025 Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies
THE3012 International Arts Programming
Courses I teach on
Postgraduate research supervision
Principal supervisor: Will Osmond, 'The Nature and Functions of Role-Playing in Immersive and Participatory Theatre' (current).
Principal supervisor: Julia Peetz, 'The Currency of Distrust: Populist Performance in the Twenty-First Century'. (current).
Principal supervisor: Yaron Shyldkrot, 'How to Keep the Audience in the Dark: Uncertainty in Pitch-Black Theatre' (current).
Co-supervisor: Michelle Man, 'Lighting States - Lighting Scapes: Transformative Encounters with Light in the Development of Choreographic Language' (current).
Co-supervisor: Meg Cunningham, 'Experiencing Story: Stepping into the Scenography of Immersive Theatre' (current).
Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Co-edited with Martin Welton. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/theatre-in-the-dark-9781474251181/
Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Sole-authored monograph. https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137480439
‘Audience Participation and Neoliberal Value: Risk, Agency and Responsibility in Immersive Theatre’. Performance Research 18.2 (June 2013): 128-38. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13528165.2013.807177