Dr Rachel Hann BA PHD FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Scenography & Deputy Associate Dean, Doctoral College
BA (Hull), PhD (Leeds), FHEA

Academic and research departments

Doctoral College, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


Areas of specialism

Scenography; World imaginations; Cultural perspectives on climate crisis; Architecture; Costume; Digital Humanities (virtual archaeology); Performing technologies; Modernism; Practice Research

University roles and responsibilities

  • Deputy Associate Dean, Doctoral College
  • Director of Postgraduate Research, GSA

My qualifications

BA (Hons) Drama
University of Hull
Title: 'Computer-based 3D Visualization for Theatre Research: Towards an understanding of unrealized Utopian theatre architecture from the 1920s and 1930s’
Supervised by Prof. Christopher Baugh and Dr Scott Palmer
University of Leeds
Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Learning & Teaching Support; including Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Edge Hill University

Previous roles

2010 - 2015
Lecturer in Performance
Edge Hill University
2016 - 2017
Associate Dean, Doctoral College (cover for sabbatical)
University of Surrey


Research interests

Research projects

Indicators of esteem


Postgraduate research supervision

Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

My teaching

Courses I teach on


Postgraduate research

Theatre PhD

Dance PhD

My publications


Beyond Scenography, Oxon. and New York: Routledge, 2019 https://www.routledge.com/Beyond-Scenography/Hann/p/book/9781138785069 

Debating critical costume: negotiating ideologies of appearance, performance and disciplinarity, Studies in Theatre & Performance, 39.1: 21-3, 2019  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14682761.2017.1333831


Hann R, Bech S (2014) Critical Costume, Scene 2 (1) pp. 3-8
Costume is critical. It is critical to making performance, critical to spectatorship, critically overlooked within scholarship, notable when in crisis, and a means of critically interrogating the body. It is therefore critical that we discuss costume. Yet, it is equally imperative for costume to find appropriate methods and frameworks to support new forms of practice. A critical discourse of costume aims to promote new questions and scholarship on the intersections between body, design and performance. This is the concern of critical costume. Investigations formulated under the banner of critical costume aim to debate the purpose, usages and implications of costuming as a social, artistic and craft-based phenomenon. Costume and the study of dress in performance remains a nascent area of academic enquiry. In the absence of a significant canon of literature or established methods for costume enquiry, researchers working within this field are applying pre-existing methods and theoretical frameworks, as well as pioneering new approaches, in order to debate the critical and practical distinctions between body, design and performance. Performance designer Dorita Hannah echoes this line of thought as she argues that 'it is high time we do speak of how design elements not only actively extend the performing body, but also perform without and in spite of the human body' (Hannah and Mehzoud 2011: 103). Critical costume is a response to this call for action, for new scholarship, for new practices and for a renewed appraisal of performing bodies.
Hann R (2012) Blurred Architecture: Duration and Performance in the work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts 17 (5) pp. 9-18
Architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio have questioned conventional approaches to spatial temporality and the situation of architecture since the late 1970s. Now joined by Charles Renfro, the installation and architectural projects of their interdisciplinary design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro are representative of the shift from the aesthetic architectures of post-modernism towards a critical architecture based upon the principles of time-based art. As a reflection on the question of duration and performance, this article returns to Diller Scofidio + Renfro's temporary structure for the Swiss Expo in 2002. Blur Building, or Blur, underlines the occurrence of time through its continuously shifting structure and ephemeral state. Located on a steel-viewing platform on Lake Neuchâtel, Blur was a literal performance of its lakeside site as a series of water jets formed a suspended mist cloud around its steel frame: an ephemeral architecture of water and action. This event-based spatial ecology of Blur is typical of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's focus on the affect of architecture and the social consequence of buildings. Influenced by their initial explorations within a theatrical setting, Diller Scofidio + Renfro integrate the experience of technology and architecture to evoke the social and material contexts of the ?site? or situation. Notions of spectatorship and participation recur throughout their architectural interventions, as they aim to position architecture as a means of spatial and haptic revelation: where the event of architectural experience has a direct impact upon our embodied perception of ourselves. Framed by Dorita Hannah's notion of ?spatial performativity? and the writings of architect's such as Juhani Pallasmaa and Bernard Tschumi, this article concludes with by reflecting on how Blur is representative of the critical discourses that have shaped contemporary approaches to site and performance, the dramaturgy of architecture.
Hann R (2012) Dwelling in Light and Sound: An Intermedial Site for Digital Opera, International Journal of Digital Media and Performance Arts 8 (1) pp. 61-78
To interrogate the role of architecture within intermedial digital opera, this article returns to a model of performance architecture as conceived by Swiss scenographer Adolphe Appia (1842?1928) and German architect Heinrich Tessenow (1876?1950) for the Festspielhaus Hellerau (1911). Drawing in particular on the example of Appia's collaboration with the lighting electrician Alexander von Salzmann (1874?1934) and the inclusion of an immersive light installation in the Festspielhaus, the article invites digital opera practitioners to consider the ?performative? implications of their performance spaces. Positioned as an explicit example of ?performing architecture?, Appia and Salzmann's largely undocumented and lost light installation is reviewed through the lens of work by contemporary installation artists such as La Monte Young and James Turrell. Building upon the principles for scenographic space as outlined by Appia, the article challenges the use of visually ornate digital landscapes within media performance and proposes an alternative, augmented place of light and sound as a fitting site for the intermedial practice of digital opera.
Hann R (2016) Costume Politics, In: Zupauc Lotker S, Kuburovi? B (eds.), SharedSpace: Music, Weather, Politics pp. 112-131 Arts and Theatre Institute
Costume is subversive. It subverts the rules of a fashion system and exposes the theatricality of dress. Accordingly, the politics of costume are arguably a politics of ?othering?: how the conscious subversion of appearance serves as an act of bodily estrangement. Yet, as evident in the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) tribes in June 2015, this othering is an active process that is undertaken equally by those engaged in the event of costuming and those who witness this act. Devised by exhibition curator Sodja Lotker, each PQ tribe was commissioned with an expected minimum of four individuals that were masked or costumed. Importantly, the group would take on a shared behavioural trait or characteristic when traversing a predetermined route through the centre of Prague, which included an underground train station and busy public squares. Each tribe would also interact directly with the inhabitants of Prague by spending 50K
. Based on this broad outline, the PQ tribes were suitably diverse and focused on a range of different concerns. Some, such as Hideki Seo?s Jump!, evoked the logic and context of the fashion catwalk. Others, as exemplified by Simona Rybáková Swans, adorned costumes originally designed for theatrical performances. There were, however, a number of PQ tribes that aimed to enact or provoke an overtly political intervention: where the enactment of a tribe was a conscious act of rupture within the everyday flow of the city. Lotker?s call focused on this attribute most explicitly by noting that the PQ tribes ?will install healing tribes on the weak points of the city of Prague to question everything? (Lotker 2014). These ?weak points? included the exchange of money, the physical dimensions of the underground system, and the way public space is policed (whether formally or informally). Consequently, this interventionist quality of the PQ tribes invites a distinct focus on how the subversive qualities of costuming expose how appearance is recognised, understood and regulated.
Hann Rachel (2017) Debating critical costume: Negotiating ideologies of appearance, performance, and disciplinarity, Studies in Theatre and Performance Taylor & Francis
In this article I present an argument for a proposed focus of ?critical costume?. Critical Costume, as a research platform, was founded in 2013 to promote new debate and scholarship on the status of costume in contemporary art and culture. We have now hosted two biennial conferences and exhibitions (Edge Hill University 2013, Aalto University 2015). These events have exposed an international appetite for a renewed look at how costume is studied, practiced and theorized. Significantly, Critical Costume is focused on an inclusive remit that is interdisciplinary and supports a range of 'voices': from theatre and anthropology scholars to working artists. In that regard, I offer an initial argument for how we might collectively navigate this interdisciplinary 'pocket of practice' with reference to other self-identified critical approaches to art practice. By focusing on an interdisciplinary perspective on costume, my intention is to invite new readings and connections between popular practices, such as Halloween and cosplay, with the refined crafts of theatrical and film professionals. I argue that costume is a vital element of performance practice, as well as an extra-daily component of our social lives, that affords distinct methods for critiquing how appearance is sustained, disciplined and regulated. I conclude by offering a position on the provocation of critical costume and a word of caution on the argument for disciplinarity.
Hann Rachel (2017) Scenography, Digital Theatre+

Contemporary scenography is a crafting of material and technological
stagecrafts that orientates performers and spectators within a staged
atmosphere. The term scenography derives from the Ancient Greek for
skene (?hut or tent?) and the action of graphos (?etching or scribing?).
?Scenography? in English only becomes directly associated with theatre
making in the 1960s. Variants on the original Greek as it pertains to
theatre making are, nevertheless, represented in the majority of
continental European languages: such as scénographie (French) and
scénografie (Czech). All of the continental European variants before the
1960s had a strong association with ?stage design? or ?set design?. The
contemporary English usage, and a number of continental variants, now
exceed a purely physical construction of scenery, to account for how the
material and immaterial qualities of a stage atmosphere are composed
and experienced.

The collaborative practice of scenography as a crafting of stage
atmospheres often exceeds the authorship of a named professional,
such as a designer or director. Accordingly, a scenographer is a
particular kind of theatre maker who sustains a distinct focus on how
the material and technological elements of performance come together
as a felt atmosphere. In this regard, certain directors are also
scenographers, such as Robert Wilson (1941- ) and Robert Lepage (1957-
), along with designers of lighting, sound, set and costume. A
scenographer is typically a lead collaborator, practiced in a number of
stagecrafts that, more often than not, transcend the strict conventional
production hierarchies of author, director, designer and performer.

Hann Rachel (2017) Edward Gordon Craig, Digital Theatre+
Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966) is known as one of the 20thcentury?s most influential theatre theorists and makers; he was also a trained actor. The broad scope of ?theatre maker?, albeit not a term Craig would have used himself, aptly captures how his ideas on the fusion of ?technical stagecrafts? (conventionally seen as set construction, stage management, lighting and sound) and ?creative stagecrafts? (acting, music, literature, and dance) inform approaches to directing and anticipate collaborative models of authorship. While this relates to the role of a director, the notion of a theatre maker is also inclusive of the collaborative roles and practices of a contemporary scenographer or dramaturg, actor or choreographer. Accordingly, Craig?s practicalexperiments and theoretical arguments positioned the material and spatial elements of theatre as complementary and integral, rather than in service to performers or as superficial decoration. Influenced by the staging principles of Ancient Greek drama, Craig argued that theatre had become too focused on literary texts and needed to rediscover an art of staging that embraced the experiential qualities of light and sound. The ideas that inform contemporary approaches to theatre making are partly in debt to Craig through his argument for a renewed harmony between the individual stagecrafts.
This research project examines the dramaturgical implications of three historically significant unrealized theatres. The objective was to form new insights on these seldom examined theatres through the process of computer-based 3D visualization. The three case studies draw upon a wide range of source material: including architectural plans, sketches, performance manifestos as well as significant productions and artistic trends that informed 1920s theatre practice.
Hann Rachel, de Guevara Victor Ladron (2015) Addressing practice: introducing a new section for STP, Studies in Theatre and Performance 35 (1) pp. 3-6 Taylor & Francis
This article announces the creation of a new section in STP dedicated to the dissemination of Practice-as-Research (PaR) projects. The authors argue the need for a sustainable archive for PaR outcomes, which embraces a range of media formats and curational strategies.
Hann Rachel (2012) Theatre has Left the Building: Theatre and Performance Architecture in the 21st Century, Australasian Drama Studies (61) pp. 159-161 La Trobe University

Dr Rachel Hann, Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Arts at University of Surrey invites your submissions to ?Practice Matters?, an online section of Studies in Theatre & Performance (STP):

My attendance at the Goldsmiths event confirmed two things. Firstly, that I was not alone in wanting to move on from the defensive positions cultivated over the last 20 years. The proposal to focus on the future chimed with my own belief that the argument that ?practice matters? had been won (at least administratively). Secondly, the move away from the micro-politics of practice as/through/based/led was particularly welcome. I am therefore an out and out convert. ?Practice Research? works for me. It focuses on the wider issues related to how researchers share, apply and critique knowledge borne of practice.

Hann Rachel (2011) Hellerau Returned, ERA21 10 (2) pp. 50-51 ERA Média, s. r. o.
Hann Rachel (2018) Beyond Scenography, Routledge
Focused on the Anglophone adoption from the 1960s onwards, Beyond Scenography explores the porous state
of contemporary theatre-making to argue a critical distinction between scenography (as a crafting of place
orientation) and scenographics (that which orientate acts of worlding). With sections on installation art and
gardening as well as marketing and placemaking, this book is an argument for what scenography does: how
assemblages of scenographic traits orientate, situate, and shape staged events. Established stage orthodoxies are
revisited ? including the symbiosis of stage and scene and the aesthetic ideology of ?the scenic? ? to propose how
scenographics are formative to staged atmospheres. Consequently, one of the conclusions of this book is that
there is no theatre practice without scenography, no stages without scenographics. Beyond Scenography offers a
manifesto for a renewed theory of scenographic practice.
Creative: The Garden of Perfect Brightness
Set in 1700s China, at the court of the Qing dynasty, this historical novel focuses on the life of Giuseppe Castiglione, a painter recruited by the Jesuits to serve in their Mission in Beijing. As Castiglione struggles artistically in an unfamiliar culture, he finds himself drawn to Niuhuru, concubine to a prince and mother to a future emperor, who lives in the Yuan Ming Yuan, the Garden of Perfect Brightness, a country estate. Told in alternate chapters, the novel follows the relationship between the two and the changes made to the Garden. Castiglione is tasked with being the architect who will turn the simple country retreat into an imperial wonderland as Niuhuru sees her home turn into a place she no longer recognises.

Critical: Playing in the Garden of Perfect Brightness
David Harlan asks why reviewers of historical novels ?almost never (venture) beyond the most obvious questions of factual accuracy.? In this thesis I propose that historical fiction can be seen as a ?playframe?, an idea transposed from Jackson and Kidd?s work in heritage performance (e.g. setting a play about slavery within a museum on the topic), where the framework of a historical setting and the playful exploration of a fictional element combine to create what author Hannah Kent calls ?work(s) of possibility,? resulting in strong audience/reader engagement.

I propose the word playframe as a hybrid concept for a hybrid genre. Using the framework of history, the fictional element of the narrative can then be seen as a playful engagement with the past, whereby an author pursues their own concept or vision. Rather than exclusively focusing on factual accuracy, I suggest that we should also pay attention to what an author has chosen to ?play? with, rather than potentially dismissing the fictional element as a historically inaccurate intrusion. I have identified three types of authors and named them the Ventriloquist, the Mosaic-Maker and the Magician, for their different approaches to playing with the past.

Whatever their choice, my argument is the same: in choosing to write or read a novel in this hybrid genre rather than, say, a textbook of history, the experience should be one of playful engagement and exploration rather than exclusively interrogating for accuracy. ?The museum does not have all the answers. The museum plays a potentially far more important role& it has questions,? suggests Bradburne. I would argue that the same is true of historical fiction, and that we should value and explore the fictional element as well as the historical in this hybrid genre.

Additional publications