Adam Alston

Staff details

Adam Alston


Reader, Co-Director of Research


Theatre and Performance


a.alston (

Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups

Adam’s research explores decadence and pleasure in performance and visual culture, as well as immersive theatre

My research cuts across two main areas: 'decadence' in 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 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

Research interests

My current research looks at decadence and pleasure in 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 and internationally. This research is primarily 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 (Bloomsbury 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 the V&A, 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.

Grants and awards

Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century
Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century was a 2-year research projected funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Decadent Plays
Arts Council England supported translations for an anthology of Decadent Plays, published with Bloomsbury in 2024, as well as sharings of work in development.

Publications and research outputs


Alston, Adam. 2024. “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors:” Dorian Gray 2.0. Cusp: Late 19th-/Early 20th-Century Cultures, ISSN 2768-637X

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

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 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; Messias, Nando and Williams, Sam. 2023. Nando Messias: decadence, performance and the archive (Staging Decadence residency - Goldsmiths).

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


Alston, Adam. 2024. Staging Decadence: Decadent Costume. In: "V&A Late, Feminist Futures", V&A, United Kingdom, 26 April 2024.

Alston, Adam. 2023. Staging Decadence: Dress to Kill. In: "Staging Decadence: Dress to Kill", Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom, 24 May 2023.

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

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:

Selected shorter publications

Blog posts
See the Staging Decadence Blog for various posts and artist interviews:

‘How to revel in rot’, Royal Academy Magazine (2024).

'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:


‘It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors’: Dorian Gray 2.0’. Cusp: Late 19th-/Early 20th-Century Cultures (2024).

Scenes from Bourgeois Life. By Nicholas Ridout. Theatre Research International, 2021.

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).