David Jackson

Image of David Jackson

Department of Drama and Theatre Arts
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: To the subconscious by conscious means: towards a new pedagogy for the emotions in UK actor training
Supervisors:  Dr Rose Whyman and Dr Adam Ledger 
PhD Drama and Theatre Studies


  • BABA Double Honours English and Drama
  • PGCE Drama
  • MA Actor Training and Coaching


After my undergraduate degree at Manchester University, I trained as an actor at the Mime Centre, London, and at LAMDA. I also developed my teaching skills through a PGCE and my MA in Actor Training and Coaching (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama). For many years, my time was divided more or less equally between professional acting and teaching. In recent years I have specialised in actor training in a conservatoire environment.


I have been teaching in Higher Education, both universities and drama schools, for the last ten years.  Most recently, I was Course Leader for BA Acting at Drama Centre London, which is part of Central Saint Martins, in turn a constituent college of the University of the Arts.


In this thesis, I propose that a perennial challenge for the actor is the embodiment and expression of emotion. Dramatists frequently place their characters in the most extreme circumstances imaginable, demanding a full-blooded response from the actor. But emotions are not in our conscious control. What is the actor to do? To illuminate this demanding artistic challenge, I develop a dual conceptual framework, drawing on emotion theory from the worlds of both acting and science, particularly psychology and neurology. How have practitioners and thinkers in these two fields accounted for the phenomenon of emotion and is there any convergence between their discoveries? I also examine how emotion has been approached in the UK conservatoire and focus on a selection of actor trainers who have placed this topic at the centre of their work: Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov, Lee Strasberg and Susana Bloch. The history of attempts to manipulate emotion for artistic purposes is a controversial one. At a time of unprecedented concern for student well-being and mental health, what might an ethical approach to ‘teaching emotion’ look like? What have we to learn from the science of the emotions and the training practice of the recent past? Can one be used to refresh the other and help reinvent past practice to create a new pedagogy of the emotions, fit for purpose in the 21st century?

Other activities

Research papers

  • Is Actor Training Dangerous?, Birmingham University,February 2021
  • Stanislavski, Emotion and the future of the UK conservatoire, Rose Bruford College, March 2016
  • A Performance Experiment: Towards a multi-dimensional model of acted emotion, Kent University, April 2015
  • Can Cognitive Science resolve Diderot’s Paradox?, Goldsmith’s, University of London, April 2014
  • Russian Actor Training: migration, terminology and transplanting practice, Hull University, April 2014
  • Science and Actor Training: benefits, methodology and practice as research, Lincoln University, February 2014
  • Tears on demand: what can science tell us about controlling emotions on stage?, Paris-Sorbonne University, March 2014
  • Russians in the UK: Movements in Actor Training, Population and Contemporary Theatre, Essex University, July 2013


  • David Jackson (2011) 'Twenty-first-century Russian actor training: Active Analysis in the UK', Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 2:2, 166-180, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2011.602704
  • David Jackson (2013) 'Ribot, Emotion and the Actor's Creative State', Stanislavski Studies, 2:1, 246-267, DOI: 10.1080/20567790.2013.11428600
  • David Jackson (2017) ‘Stanislavski, emotion and the future of the UK conservatoire’, Stanislavski Studies, 5:1, 75-83, DOI: 10.1080/20567790.2017.1298195
  • David Jackson (2018) 'The samovar and the steam train: an interview with Albert Filozov', Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 9:1, 99-113, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2017.1417155