Dr Claire French

Dr Claire French

Department of Drama and Theatre Arts
Assistant Professor in Performance and Creative Practices

Contact details

Address
University of Birmingham
Selly Oak Campus
Weoley Park Road
Hamilton Drive
Birmingham
B29 6QW

I am new to the department, teaching across theory and practice and leading the new MA in Performance Practices: Applied Artists. My specialisms include applied, autobiographical and multilingual performance practices. I am currently most connected to South African theatre and performance artists and activists, articulating new dramaturgies and frameworks for sustainable global collaboration. Communities that I have previously created work with include new migrants, the diaspora, Indigenous training actors, older actors and intercultural teams of physical theatre performers across Germany, the UK, South Africa and Australia.

My research develops multilingual methodologies and dramaturgies that interweave and legitimise minority or low-status languages. I have published in journals including Applied Theatre Research, Theatre Dance and Performance Training and Australian Aboriginal Studies and currently completing my monograph, Making Multilingual performance: Omission, Alignment, Disruption (Routledge 2023, forthcoming).

Qualifications

  • 2019: PhD in Theatre Studies, University of Warwick, UK, funded by Commonwealth Scholarship Commission
  • 2018: Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, UK
  • 2014: MA in Applied Theatre, Drama in the Community and Drama Education, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UK
  • 2007: BA in Theatre Studies, University of Notre Dame with Arts Management, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Biography

Prior to the University of Birmingham, I taught at the University of Warwick (UK) and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK). I have completed two postdoctoral fellowships: The Arts Research Africa and Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Award at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and the Institute of Advanced Studies Early Career Researcher Postdoctoral Award at the University of Warwick (UK). I currently hold Associate Fellowships at these two universities to maintain reciprocity and sustainability in my practice research collaborations. Additionally, I have research projects ongoing at The University of Sydney (Australia) and Aarhus University (Denmark).

I am also a practitioner, having worked as a dramaturg and producer across professional stages in London (UK), Berlin (Germany) and Perth (Aus) and as a facilitator of community practices in London, Birmingham (UK) and Johannesburg (SA), while developing projects challenging the intersections of these Euro/Anglo arts industry binaries. My documentary theatre carves out processes of making performance that privilege the storyteller in their unique social, epistemological and interactional context – to unearth new truths, new connections and new cultural literacies. I have experience across many articulations of diversity, facilitating intergenerational community groups (The Old Vic, London), elders (Visible Theatre, London), asylum seekers and refugees (Evelyn Oldfield Foundation, London) and leading open intercultural workshops (Creative Multilingualism, University of Oxford). Borrowing from my research, I seek to situate linguistic hegemonies in these multilingual, applied and autobiographical performance contexts.

More about my work can be found at clairefrench.com

Teaching

My experience as a practitioner informs my praxis-based approach to teaching. I enjoy guiding students to step in and out of role as learners to develop their own plans for practice as facilitators and I play with this as a pedagogy in several modules. My teaching in the department focuses on the investigations of critical and reflective studio practices, dramaturgy and intercultural performance in and out of applied theatre settings. I am highly interdisciplinary, drawing from sociolinguistics and actor training in my research and allowing these to find their way into pedagogies. My current leadership and development of the MA Performance Practices: Applied Artists sees me exploring the strengths of the department and how they pair with the future of applied theatre and performance.

Postgraduate supervision

I am particularly interested in hearing from doctoral students exploring multilingual dramaturgies and methodologies in performance.


Find out more - our PhD Drama and Theatre Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.

Research

My recent practice research project 'Decolonising language ideologies in the body' with Sibusiso Mkhize developed improvisational approaches to multilingual South African (isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, English) performance making at the University of the Witwatersrand. This research advances decolonial, multilingual and intercultural theatre and performance frameworks and will be featured in three forthcoming chapters (2023) of edited collections as well as my monograph Making multilingual performance: Omission, alignment, disruption (Routledge 2023, Forthcoming).

Previous research projects have included Indigenous multilingual and intercultural dramaturgies with Prof. Jaky Troy, University of Sydney; and translanguaging and youth artmaking with Dr Rachael Jacobs for UNESCO and Western Sydney University.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

French, C & Roche, G 2022, 'Global coalition for language rights' Blog: Language on the Move, vol. 2022. <https://www.languageonthemove.com/global-coalition-for-language-rights/>

French, C 2022, 'Languaging a widened embodied repertoire', Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 57-74. https://doi.org/10.1080/19443927.2021.2006297

French, C 2021, 'Facilitating departures from monolingual discourses', Applied Theatre Research, vol. 9, no. 1, 1, pp. 7-23. https://doi.org/10.1386/atr_00045_1

French, C & Troy, J 2021, 'Ngapartji Ngapartji: iutercultural dramaturgies for Indigenous language revitalisation', Australian Aboriginal Studies, no. 2, 3, pp. 25-45. <https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/agispt.20220913073892>

Book/Film/Article review

French, C 2018, 'Explorations in Southern African Drama, Theatre and Performance. By Patrick J. Ebewo. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017. Pp. xvii + 249 + 15 illus. £61.99 Hb.', Theatre Research International, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 344-345. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0307883318000615

French, C 2016, 'The Methuen drama guide to contemporary South African theatre', South African Theatre Journal, pp. 271-275. https://doi.org/10.1080/10137548.2016.1218208

Commissioned report

French, C & Jacobs, R 2021, Women, robots and a sustainable generation: Reading artworks envisioning education in 2050 and beyond. UNESCO. <https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000375578>

Other contribution

French, C 2022, Playing a part beyond allyship with Black Brass. ArtsHub Australia. <https://www.artshub.com.au/news/features/beyond-allyship-with-black-brass-2525097/>

French, C 2022, ‘Theatre of the real’: how artists at Perth Fringe World are stripping down to reveal their vulnerabilities. The Conversation . <https://theconversation.com/theatre-of-the-real-how-artists-at-perth-fringe-world-are-stripping-down-to-reveal-their-vulnerabilities-175652>

French, C 2020, Performing the languages we live.. <https://www.creativeml.ox.ac.uk/blog/exploring-multilingualism/performing-languages-we-live/>

View all publications in research portal