Robert Gordon is Professor of Drama and Director of the Pinter Centre for Research in Writing and Performance. Before joining Goldsmiths in 1990, he was Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway College. He has taught at the University of Kent, and been Visiting Professor in Theater at Duke University, the State University of New York at Binghampton, Skidmore College, New York and at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He was for eight years Director of the University of London International Graduate Summer School and has taught acting and performance theory for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the London Actors' Centre, the Drama Studio, the Acting Company and the Natal Playhouse, South Africa, and for directors at the British Theatre Association.
Gordon’s research has focused on the dialectical relationship between practice and critical reflection, exploiting his experience as an actor, playwright and director in South Africa, Britain, Ireland, the USA and Italy as an experimental laboratory to test ideas concerning the semiotics of mise-en-scène and the phenomenology of performance that have informed all of his writing including The Purpose of Playing: modern acting theories in perspective (2006) for the University of Michigan’s award-winning Theater: Theory/ Text/ Performance series. This critical study of methodologies of Western performance from the late-nineteenth century to the present day aims to provide the first coherent conceptualisation of the major categories of modern acting.
His scholarly research includes critical writing on modern British theatre (Pinter, Stoppard, Gray, Orton, and Rattigan), Wilde, Strindberg and Pirandello. His monograph, Stoppard: Text and Performance was published by Macmillan in 1991. His research in the field of South African theatre began in 1985 with his play about South African women under apartheid, Red Earth, for Magna Carta and has continued to the present, with a chapter, ‘Iago and the swart gevaar: the pleasures and problems of a (post)colonial Othello’ for The Spread of Shakespeare (forthcoming 2009), an international research project on Shakespeare in the former colonies and Under My Skin, a screenplay about the end of apartheid commissioned for production by Blindid. His years of research on South African theatre and as performer, director and scholar of Harold Pinter’s work motivate Gordon’s most recent research collaboration as Director of the Pinter Centre. This takes as its point of departure the subversion of colonial aesthetics in British and postcolonial theatres, with the aim of mapping the fracturing of narrative across literary and performative modes and genres. With Professor Helen Carr, Professor Blake Morrison and Dr Osita Okagbue as co-researchers, the project will include three conferences and produce a range of books, performances, papers and DVD-Roms. Among his contributions to the project is a volume in the Michigan Modern Dramatists series, Pinter’s Theatre of Power (due 2010) and The Rooms a site-specific festival of seven of Pinter’s shorter plays (June, 2009).
Since 2004, musical theatre has been a significant focus of his practice-led and scholarly research. In November 2005, he convened an interdisciplinary symposium, ‘Stephen Sondheim: Collaborator and Auteur’, and is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies.
His practice-based research on 'Space, Place and Performance' (2001-4) was a joint project with the theatre designer Dr Kiara Pipino, School of Architecture, University of Genoa. As director of the prize-winning Postcards from a Journey at the Borga d’Autore in Liguria in 2002, he devised and directed a site-specific production of Calvino’s Le Citta Invisibile, a bilingual production utilising thirty locations in Rapallo, and adapted and directed the first stage version of Barrico’s Novecento at the Teatro della Clarisse, the Portofino harbour and Porto Antico. Subsequent productions included a site-specific performance of Stephano Benni’s Astharoth and a promenade performance of Spoon River Anthology.
Shylock’s Ghosts: The Afterlife of Shakepeare’s Jew
Gordon, Robert J. and Peimer, David. 2011. Shylock’s Ghosts: The Afterlife of Shakepeare’s Jew. In: "9th World Shakespeare Congress", Jewish Museum, Prague, Czech Republic.
Fugard, Kani, Ntshona's The Island: Antigone as South African Drama
Gordon, Robert J.. 2012. Fugard, Kani, Ntshona's The Island: Antigone as South African Drama. Comparative Drama, 46(3), pp. 379-399. ISSN 0010-4078
The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective
Gordon, Robert J.. 2006. The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472068876
All That Jazz: the difficult journey of Chicago from stage to screen
Gordon, Robert J.. 2018. All That Jazz: the difficult journey of Chicago from stage to screen. In: George Rodosthenous, ed. Twenty-First Century Musicals: From Stage to Screen. London: Routledge, pp. 34-52. ISBN 9781138648890
‘Kept Alive by Amateurs: White Horse Inn in Britain’
Gordon, Robert J.. 2016. ‘Kept Alive by Amateurs: White Horse Inn in Britain’. In: Nils Grosch and Carolin Stahrenberg, eds. Im Weissen Rössel: neue kulturgeschichtliche perspectiven 1930-2015. 19 Munster; New York: Waxman, pp. 179-194. ISBN 9783830933557
Iago and the Swart Gevaar: The Problems and Pleasures of a (Post)colonial Othello
Gordon, Robert J.. 2009. Iago and the Swart Gevaar: The Problems and Pleasures of a (Post)colonial Othello. In: Graham Bradshaw; Tom Bishop and Laurence Wright, eds. South African Shakespeare in the Twentieth Century. 9 Farham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 131-151. ISBN 9780754669166
Guilty secrets and cultural blind spots: Miller's plays in South Africa
Gordon, Robert J.. 2007. Guilty secrets and cultural blind spots: Miller's plays in South Africa. In: Enoch Brater, ed. Arthur Miller's Global Theater. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 66-76. ISBN 9780472115938