My research considers the performance of Shakespeare in a range of non-traditional and applied theatre settings: within the criminal justice sector, psychiatric units and groups for those with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities and other marginalised groups such as homeless and those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. My work builds on the existing research of the use of drama with these groups and examines why Shakespeare’s works particularly are used so often for people where communication is frequently an issue. My research is not clinical but is instead focused on how and why Shakespeare is used in this context and the impact it has. Existing writing on the topic is sparse and largely case-study based, focusing on individual productions. My thesis will look across a number of individual companies, organisations and institutions. The focus will be international, considering work in the UK, US, Europe and Australia, to draw together strands which have previously been analysed, largely in isolation, within a specific project or intervention.
Analysis of Shakespeare’s works within custodial and therapeutic spaces, considering why and how the plays are selected, edited, used and performed and what success criteria applies is an area not yet fully explored. Each chapter will consider the reception of Shakespeare’s work in a specific type of non-traditional theatre space; both spaces which are in fixed existence and those which are created for the performance. The current body of published work in this field is sparse and there is no cohesive consideration of Shakespeare across these spaces. Existing work focuses on a specific space such as prison, Broadmoor etc and does not read across the performance of Shakespeare in places where a space must be created for his work, and the effect of creating this space. In these settings a space is created both physically within the institution and also mentally for those involved in the production; challenging them to open their minds to his work and characters. This language of physically and mentally created space and the limitations imposed on these spaces by nature of the institutions they are created within and the resources available is an area I intend to bring to the academic forefront much more than it is today. Much of my research is practical and involves designing and delivering projects to groups of people within these spaces, as well as enabling practitioner/academic dialogues on this growing field of interest through the hosting of the inaugural Applying Shakespeare Symposium at the Shakespeare Institute in March 2018.