My research is fundamentally concerned with the material contexts that inform and shape theatre and performance. This is what drew me to immersive theatre, and it still informs my thinking today.
Most recently I've been working on an AHRC Fellowship called 'Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century'. This involved the release of a documentary about decadence and performance, curation of live performance salons and club nights in New York and London, and co-editing a special issue of the journal Volupté on 'Decadence and Performance' (with Alexandra Bickley-Trott: Winter 2021). Forthcoming publications include a monograph - Staging Decadence: Theatre, Performance, and the Ends of Capitalism (Bloomsbury 2023) - and an anthology of Decadent Plays co-edited with Jane Desmarais (Bloomsbury, 2023). Also, keep an eye out for posts and interviews on the Staging Decadence blog! Find out more at: www.stagingdecadence.com
- 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
My research cuts across three core areas: immersive theatre, performances that take place in complete darkness, and decadence in contemporary theatre and live art.
I was initially motivated to explore immersive theatre around the time of the 2008 financial crash. I wanted to know why those specialising in immersive practices were able to thrive when so many other styles and forms of theatre were struggling, particularly in the wake of substantive cuts to public arts funding. This resulted in my first book, Beyond Immersive Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), alongside a number of articles and chapters. I was also working 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).
More recently, I've been focusing on decadence in theatre and live art. This research has several strands linked in the main to an AHRC ECR Fellowship called 'Staging Decadence: Decadent theatre in the long twentieth century' (https://www.stagingdecadence.com/). I’m developing a monograph that looks at how theatre makers and live artists have been over-identifying with the rhythms of twenty-first-century capitalism (Bloomsbury, 2023). I've also recently co-edited a special issue of Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies (https://volupte.gold.ac.uk/) on ‘Decadence and Performance’ (Winter 2021), and will soon be working on a new anthology of Decadent Plays, co-edited with Jane Desmarais (Bloomsbury, 2023). The AHRC has also supported the development of a range of projects and events including a seminar series, a documentary, live performance salons at HERE Arts Centre in New York, and Rich Mix in London, and a performance club night at Iklectik Arts Lab in London.
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. 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 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. Funding, Product Placement and Drunkenness in Punchdrunk's The Black Diamond. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 32(2), pp. 193-208.
Alston, Adam. 2023. Staging Decadence: Contemporary Theatre 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
Alston, Adam. 2022. Decadence and the Antitheatrical Prejudice. In: Dustin Friedman and Kristin Mahoney, eds. Nineteenth-Century Literature in Transition: The 1890s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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 Welton, Martin, eds. 2017. Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781474251181
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
Further profile content
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 (those who study ants). You can find out more about the company here: https://www.curiousdirective.com/
I am a trustee of the 'recovering theatre company' Fast Familiar (formerly fanSHEN). 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: https://fastfamiliar.com/
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. http://studiowilldutta.art/
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
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
See the Staging Decadence Blog for various posts and artist interviews: https://www.stagingdecadence.com/blog
'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: https://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org/2019/safety-risk-and-speculation-in-the-immersive-industry/
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).