Adam Alston

Staff details

Position Reader, Co-Director of Research
Email a.alston (
Adam Alston

My research cuts across two main areas: 'decadence' in theatre, performance and visual culture, and immersive theatre.

Most recently I've been working on a project called 'Staging Decadence', which is a platform for exploring and sharing theatre and live art that lends itself to decadence as an embodied and enacted practice. It was made possible thanks to a two-year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and it's now an ongoing initiative for fostering new collaborations, publications and events. Keep an eye out for new blog posts, interviews, films, workshops and live performance events on the website:

I'm also still involved in exploring immersive theatre and immersive experiences more broadly, primarily in supervisory and advisory capacities. It's a topic I've written about fairly extensively, and please do reach out if this there's a project you'd like to discuss.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway 2013
  • MA International Performance Research, Universities of Warwick and Amsterdam 2010
  • BA Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Warwick 2008

Teaching and Supervision

Research interests

My current research looks at decadence and transgression in theatre, performance and visual culture, and includes strands exploring twenty-first-century theatre practice, drag, cabaret, burlesque, costume, and a broad range of live art practices in the UK, US, and Japan. This research has almost all being linked to a project called 'Staging Decadence', which began its life as a two-year Fellowship funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I've recently published a monograph titled Staging Decadence: Theatre, Performance, and the Ends of Capitalism (Bloomsbury 2023), which looks at how theatre makers and live artists have been over-identifying with the rhythms of twenty-first-century capitalism. I've also co-edited a special issue of Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies ( on ‘Decadence and Performance’ (Winter 2021), and a new anthology of Decadent Plays co-edited with Jane Desmarais will be published with Bloomsbury in January 2024. The Staging Decadence project continues to serve as a platform for producing workshops, films, blog posts, interviews, seminars, and a range of live performance events (previous venues include HERE Arts Centre in New York, and Rich Mix, Iklectik Arts Lab and Queen Mary in London). To find out more, visit:

I've also been researching or advising on projects exploring immersive theatre for fifteen years. My first book, Beyond Immersive Theatre, was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2016, and came off the back of a number of articles and chapters that you can find below. I also worked collaboratively with Martin Welton between 2014 and 2017 on a related project exploring darkness and obscured vision in theatre and performance, which led to the publication of Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (Bloomsbury, 2017). I continue to supervise and advise on immersive projects, and welcome any enquiries.

Publications and research outputs


Alston, Adam. 2021. Carnal acts: Decadence in theatre, performance and live art. Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 4(2), ii-xxiii. ISSN 2515-0073

Alston, Adam. 2021. Survival of the sickest: On decadence, disease and the performing body. Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 4(2), pp. 130-156. ISSN 2515-0073

Alston, Adam. 2021. ‘Burn the witch’: Decadence and the occult in contemporary feminist performance. Theatre Research International, 46(3), pp. 285-302. ISSN 0307-8833

Alston, Adam. 2019. Immersive theatre in austerity Britain: Les Enfants Terribles’ riot in the Saatchi Gallery and the liquidation of differencEngine. Contemporary Theatre Review, 29(3), pp. 238-255. ISSN 1048-6801

Alston, Adam. 2017. Immersive theatre and the aesthetics of decadence: on the ruined worlds of Punchdrunk, SHUNT and Hammer Film Productions. Theatre and Performance Design, 3(4), pp. 199-217. ISSN 2332-2551

Alston, Adam. 2016. Making Mistakes in Immersive Theatre: Spectatorship and Errant Immersion. Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, 4(1), pp. 61-73.

Alston, Adam. 2015. Performing labour in Look Left Look Right's Above and Beyond. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20(1), pp. 50-61. ISSN 1356-9783

Alston, Adam. 2013. Audience Participation and Neoliberal Value: Risk, agency and responsibility in immersive theatre. Performance Research, 18(2), pp. 128-138. ISSN 1352-8165

Alston, Adam. 2012. Reflections on Intimacy and Narcissism in Ontroerend Goed's Personal Trilogy. Performing Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance, 3(2), pp. 107-119. ISSN 1757-1979

Alston, Adam and Daker, Rebecca. 2012. Contemporary Theatre "Philanthropy" and the Purchase of Participatory Privilege. Contemporary Theatre Review, 22(3), pp. 433-437. ISSN 1048-6801

Alston, Adam. 2012. Damocles and the Plucked: Audience Participation and Risk in Half Cut. Contemporary Theatre Review, 22(3), pp. 344-354. ISSN 1048-6801

Alston, Adam. 2012. Funding, Product Placement and Drunkenness in Punchdrunk's The Black Diamond. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 32(2), pp. 193-208.

Artist's Book

Couch, Amanda and Alston, Adam. 2019. Digesting Ritual.


Alston, Adam. 2023. Staging Decadence: Theatre, Performance, and the Ends of Capitalism. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781350237049

Alston, Adam. 2016. Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137480446

Book Section

Alston, Adam. 2023. Decadence and the Antitheatrical Prejudice. In: Dustin Friedman and Kristin Mahoney, eds. Nineteenth-Century Literature in Transition: The 1890s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 264-284. ISBN 9781009063852

Alston, Adam. 2019. Holstein’s hair: The Politics of Decadence in The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s Splat! In: Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan, eds. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 9781138303485

Alston, Adam. 2016. 'Tell no-one': Secret Cinema and the Paradox of Secrecy. In: Anna Harpin and Helen Nicholson, eds. Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics. Red Globe Press (Macmillan International). ISBN 9781137393173

Alston, Adam. 2016. The Promise of Experience: Immersive Theatre in the Experience Economy. In: James Frieze, ed. Reframing Immersive Theatre: The Politics and Pragmatics of Participatory Performance. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-36603-0

Alston, Adam. 2013. Politics in the Dark: Risk Perception, Affect and Emotion in Lundahl and Seitl’s Rotating in a Room of Images. In: Nicola Shaughnessy, ed. Affective Performance and Cognitive Science Body, Brain and Being. Bloomsbury (Methuen Drama). ISBN 9781408193150


Alston, Adam and Ideh, Amelia. 2020. Staging Decadence (project website).

Edited Book

Alston, Adam and Desmarais, Jane H., eds. 2024. Decadent Plays, 1890-1930. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781350171824

Alston, Adam and Welton, Martin, eds. 2017. Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781474251181

Edited Journal

Alston, Adam and Bickley Trott, Alexandra, eds. 2021. Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, Volume 4, Issue 2 (Winter 2021): Decadence and Performance, Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 4(2). 2515-0073


Alston, Adam and Parry, Owen. 2022. Staging Decadence (Documentary).


Alston, Adam; Condé, Alice and Prashar-Savoie, Anjali. 2022. Decadence @ Iklectik. In: "Decadence @ Iklectik", Iklectik Arts Lab, London, United Kingdom, 29 July 2022.

Alston, Adam; Parry, Owen and Rich Mix, Arts Centre. 2022. Staging Decadence (salon). In: "Staging Decadence (London salon)", Rich Mix, London, United Kingdom, 21 January 2022.

Alston, Adam; Desmarais, Jane H. and Meth, Jonathan. 2021. Decadent Plays. In: "Decadent Plays", The Albany, London, United Kingdom, 10 November 2021.

Alston, Adam; Parry, Owen and HERE, Arts Centre. 2021. HERE RAW: Staging Decadence. In: "HERE RAW: Staging Decadence", HERE, New York, United States, 9 September 2021.

Further profile content

Professional projects

I am a Creative Associate with the devised, science-led theatre company Curious Directive. All of our projects grow out of close collaborations with a range of specialists including health workers and advisers, neuroscientists and even myrmecologists (who study ants). You can find out more about the company here:

More recently I've been working as a dramaturg with Studio Will Dutta on a new project called Pleasure Gardens, which is a multimedia work exploring decadence and excess in digital cultures.

I also served as a trustee of the 'recovering theatre company' Fast Familiar (formerly fanSHEN) from 2019 until 2023. Fast Familiar's work is experience-led, and usually incorporates participatory or interactive forms of audience engagement using innovative technologies and experimental dramaturgies. You can find out more about them here:

Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups

Grants and awards

Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century
Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century is a two-year research projected funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It looks at how theatre makers have been engaging

Decadent Plays
Arts Council England are generously supporting translations for an anthology of Decadent Plays, which will be published with Bloomsbury in 2023, as well as sharings of work in development.

Selected shorter publications

Blog posts
See the Staging Decadence Blog for various posts and artist interviews:
'On sick performance and theatre’s chronic maladies', Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation Blog, 11 February 2021.
‘Safety, Risk and Speculation in the Immersive Industry’, ‘Interventions’, Contemporary Theatre Review, July 2019. Available at:

Book reviews:
Scenes from Bourgeois Life. By Nicholas Ridout. Theatre Research International. Forthcoming.
Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 31 August 2018 – 6 January 2019’, Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 1 (2) (2018), 155-60.
Authenticity in Contemporary Theatre and Performance: Make it Real. By Daniel Schulze. New Theatre Quarterly 34 (1): 91.
The Art of Light on Stage. By Yaron Abulafia. Theatre and Performance Design, 2.3/4 (2016): 341-42.
Audience Participation in Theatre: Aesthetics of the Invitation. By Gareth White. Contemporary Theatre Review 24.1 (2014): 115-16.
Fair Play: Art, Performance and Neoliberalism. By Jen Harvie. Theatre Research International. (2014).
Immersive Theatres: Intimacy and Immediacy in Contemporary Performance. By Josephine Machon. Theatre Research International (2014).
Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew. By Maurya Wickstrom. Performance Research 19.5 (2014).