Professor Catherine McNamara

Head of Guildford School of Acting (GSA)
School/ Head's Assistant: Sue Smith

Academic and research departments

Guildford School of Acting (GSA) open day.


University roles and responsibilities

  • Head of Guildford School of Acting
  • Member of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Equality, Diversity & Inclusion committee
  • Member of the University Academic Leaders Forum

    Previous roles

    02 January 2019 - 15 May 2022
    Head of School (Art, Design & Performance)
    University of Portsmouth
    2003 - 2018
    Director of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience 2015 – 2018
    Acting-Dean (sabbatical cover 01 Jan 2018 – 16 April 2018)
    Pro-Dean (Students) 2012-2015
    Deputy Dean of Studies (2009-2012)
    Deputy Head of Postgraduate Studies (2007-2009)
    Course Leader of the MA Applied Theatre (Drama in the Community & Drama
    Education) and Postgraduate Certificate Directing Text with Young People
    Course Leader of the PGCE Drama (Secondary) (2003-2006)
    The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (University of London)


    In the media

    Catherine McNamara on Applied Theatre 
    Uncensored Critic Podcast
    Trans actors: 'Why can't you just represent me as a person?' – video
    interviewee/ project lead
    The Guardian
    Broadcasting House (BBC Radio 4): segment on the TransActing Project
    contributor (starts 36.55mins)
    BBC Radio 4
    Is Britain’s generation of trans actors on the verge of a breakthrough?
    subject of interview/ article
    The Guardian
    Transgender Actors on Stage and Screen
    Huff Post


    Research interests


    Postgraduate research supervision


    Jenny Hughes, Jenny Kidd, Catherine McNamara (2011)The Usefulness of Mess: Artistry, Improvisation and Decomposition in the Practice of Research in Applied Theatre, In: Baz Kershaw, Helen Nicholson (eds.), Research Methods in Theatre and Performancepp. 186-209 Edinburgh University Press

    This chapter contends that the awkward positions implicit in applied theatre research and practice provide useful perspectives from which to re-examine relationships between theory, practice and research that underpin wider knowledge-making practices in theatre and performance and the epistemological and ontological assumptions that underpin those practices. Applied theatre's responsiveness to invitations to practice and research in diverse contexts and its commitment to effecting social change complicates any easy categorisation of 'method' of practice and research. The chapter argues that different ways of thinking and doing implicit in applied theatre research and practice may be profoundly reflective of a contemporary moment. This moment is characterised by the contestation of overarching political and/or philosophical explanatory frameworks and evidence of global upheaval that has made the search for responsive, embedded and ethical knowledge practices a pressing imperative. The first part of the chapter provides a philosophical and theoretical positioning using a discussion of two prevalent 'modes' of research in applied theatre, namely broadly conventional social science research and reflective practitioner/action research modes. The second part of the chapter explores three case studies that exhibit distinct approaches to applied theatre research but that overlap in very instructive ways in the methodological and epistemological challenges and questions they generated

    This article is a consideration of the ways that transgender performers and queer bodies in performance contribute to the ongoing formation of the category of gender. It explores the relationship between performing transgendered masculinities and the constitutive potential of the law (namely the Gender Recognition Act 2004) surrounding (trans)gender identity. The article looks at examples of performance by transgender performance artists, Jason Barker staged as part of the annual Transfabulous International Festival of Transgender Arts in 2006 and 2007 and Lazlo Pearlman in He Was a Sailor, the Sea Was Inside Him (Drill Hall, London, 2007). Trans and queer performance work is still, for the most part, left out of academic discourse within performance studies. Engaging with trans art and trans artists in relation to shifts in legislation around gender brings very specific readings into the public domain. This record of performance that takes place beyond the mainstream brings transgender and genderqueer performance practice to the fore.

    Jason Barker, Kate Fisher, Jana Funke, Zed Gregory, Jen Grove, Rebecca Langlands, Ina Linge, Catherine Mcnamara, Ester McGeeney, Bon O’Hara, Jay Stewart, Kazuki Yamada (2022)Adventures in Digital and Public Humanities: Co-Producing Trans History Through Creative Collaboration, In: The Palgrave Handbook of Digital and Public Humanitiespp. 69-88 Palgrave Macmillan

    Adventures in Time and Gender is a collaborative trans history project that brought together trans and non-binary writers, artists, young people, youth workers as well as humanities academics. It resulted in an original drama podcast and a new website hosting a range of creative works and newly commissioned writing by trans and non-binary artists and performers. This chapter explains the approach to co-production that informed the project. It introduces the methods of creative engagement and interpretation of historical sources developed by the project team and examines the benefits and challenges of working across different communities representing various forms of expertise and experience. The chapter also outlines the impact of the project on the different collaborators and audiences, including young people, academic researchers, youth workers, artists, therapists and clinicians.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2018)A complex matrix of identities: Working intergenerationally with LGBTQ people, In: Andrew King, K Almack, Yiu-Tung Suen, Sue Westwood (eds.), Older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people: minding the knowledge gaps Routledge

    This text offers a synthesis of perspectives on lesbian, gay, bisexual. and trans (LGBT) ageing issues, as well as a critical analysis of both what is known about LGBT ageing and what is not yet known.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA, Jay Stewart (2014)One person's journey at one school: preventing transgender discrimination, In: Race equality teaching32(2)pp. 18-23 UCL Press

    This article presents a case study of good practice to demonstrate the ways in which some schools are meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty in relation to the support they provide for young people who are expressing gender variance or are identifying as transgender or genderqueer . This article will also identify common examples of practice in schools where discrimination on the basis of a young person's gender identity occurs. These concrete examples enable a reflection on how procedures, policies and practices relating to the Public Sector Equality Duty, with specific regard to gender reassignment, can impact positively on young people's individual experiences of being part of an institution's community. The examples also seek to demonstrate the detrimental impact that poor practice, or a lack of support and intervention can have on young people in school settings

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2013)A Theatre for Social Justice Project in the UK, In: Norma Bowles,, Daniel-Raymond Nadon (eds.), Staging social justice: collaborating to create activist theatrepp. 174-185 Southern Illinois University Press

    This essay explores a collaborative Theatre for Social Justice project that took place in London, United Kingdom, in 2008 and involved fifty participants. The key question we ask is, What are the key challenges when bringing student and community participants together to create theatre? We will start by outlining the nature of the international collaboration and then will unpack some of the tensions that emerged during the process of making a play and in relation to the play as product of the process. We will conclude by considering to what extent we were successful in creating quality art and effective theatre, playfully questioning whether this project was a creative success or a site of carnage.

    Stephen Farrier, Catherine McNamara (2013)The gender and sexuality issue, In: Research in drama education18(2)pp. 111-119 Taylor & Francis

    The INTERarts site provides a resource for Applied Theatre practitioners and arts workshop facilitators. It contains information about the INTERarts LGBTQ intergenerational project, the team of facilitators who were involved as well as some of the participants. The site presents documentation of the exhibition that took place on 4th December 2011. It also offers information on the pedagogic strategies we employed when planning and delivering the project as well as reflection and analysis of the findings from this work (Research Dimension tab). The project mobilized high quality exchange, collaboration and creative outputs among the groups of participants. The research dimension of this site explores the most effective strategies for intergenerational engagement within LGBTQ communities.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA, Alison Rooke (2008)The pedagogy and performance of Sci:dentities, In: Ralph Levinson, Helen Nicholson, Simon Parry (eds.), Creative encounters: new conversations in science education and the artspp. 174-193 Wellcome Trust

    Society dictates that people fall into one of two sexual identities: male or female. For some people, though, sex is not so clear-cut. They may have an intersex condition or feel that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and the gender they perceive themselves to be. Catherine McNamara and Alison Rooke describe here a project in which a group of transsexual and transgendered young people were able to explore textendash and challenge textendash the biological determinants and medical understanding of sex and gender, and also to express their perceptions through performance. As well as helping the young people to make more sense of their sexed and gendered identities, the project enabled them to communicate a picture of transgendered lived experience that goes beyond limited scientific and medical descriptions.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2007)Transgendered Masculinities in Performance: Subcultural Narratives Laid Bare, In: Dimple Godiwala (eds.), Alternatives within the mainstream II: queer theatres in post-war Britainpp. 160-179 Cambridge Scholars
    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2018)Supporting trans and/or non-binary young people: UK methods and approaches, In: Pam Alldred, Fin Cullen, Kathy Edwards, Dana Fusco (eds.), The SAGE handbook of youth work practice Sage Publications

    This chapter presents an example of youth work practice with young trans and/ or non-binary people in the UK. The chapter uses the work of the organisation Gendered Intelligence as its focus and highlights a number of aspects of good practice and specific challenges that have arisen when working with young people who identify as transgender in some way. The youth group provision under discussion includes monthly sessions for trans and non-binary youth in London, Leeds and Bristol. The practice is contextualised in relation to work with young trans people in other countries. The three priorities for this youth work practice which re-values stigmatised identities are: to reduce isolation; to increase young trans people’s sense of pride in their gender identities; to increase young people’s ability to manage difficult situations. The chapter seeks to consolidate findings from the Gendered Intelligence youth group project into a model of practice that might be used by other practitioner-researchers in this and cognate fields.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA, Nicholas Coomber (2012)BME Student Experiences at Central School of Speech and Drama Higher Education Academy

    In 2012 Central School of Speech & Drama received funding from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to carry out research into the experiences of their Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Students. The research included a review of pre-existing reports of the experiences of BME students in Higher Education as well as qualitative interviews with fifteen third year students and five staff members at the university. Of the students interviewed all categorised themselves as BME whereas the staff were mostly some variant of White British. This research project has enabled direct engagement with BME students and facilitated hearing in depth their experiences of work and study at the institution. The first section of the report outlines the project's aims rationale and methodology as well as well discussing how ethnicity and race are defined in the context of this research. The second section provides an account of the findings from the interviews together with an analysis of the findings which draws upon the data from the transcripts.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2014)What's it Worth? Evidencing the Value of Participation at Theatre Peckham The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

    Through this research, I asked young people directly about the value they placed on such education and participation in the arts – what was it worth to them? The report outlines the findings from the project and they inform the recruitment, attainment, retention and experiences of young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The report and the findings would be of interest to small, specialist performing arts education providers and other HE institutions involved in offering art, design and performance education and organisations involved in wider arts practices, including visual arts and dance with a view to mobilising the efforts of all organisations supporting young people’s journeys into training.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2019)How LGBTQ people are resisting Bolsonaro’s Brazil through art, In: The Conversation The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited
    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2020)Tackling child criminal exploitation The Culture Capital Exchange

    This short piece discusses a project on Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), County Lines, gangs and youth violence for which I am Project Lead. In working in partnership with Active Communities Network the aim is to complement the multi-agency work already in place in the region of Hampshire. The team includes artists, students, academics and professionals in policing, safeguarding and youth offending. The project exchanges knowledge in order to create a resource that will meet the needs of all partners in their mission to raise awareness and prevent children from being exploited.

    CATHERINE MCNAMARA (2020)The TransActing project, In: Tim Prentki, Nicola Abraham (eds.), The Applied Theatre Reader Routledge

    This chapter presents the TransActing project as a deeply trans-inclusive practice within the creative and cultural sector in the UK and beyond. It articulates the ways that this project seeks to create opportunities for trans and non-binary people to access creative processes and networks. From this beginning, the project aimed to develop and deliver high quality trans-inclusive performer training with trans, non-binary and gender diverse participants and thus to nurture the creativity and talent of participants. Participants in the TransActing project described the experience of wanting to enter into these spaces but feeling a lack of confidence to do so. TransActing project participants described feeling vulnerable at the idea of trying to enter into these creative spaces and a perception that they were not accessible to them as trans people. In 2018, the TransArte Festival organisers based in Rio de Janeiro secured British Council funding to invite the TransActing project over to Brazil.