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Dr Henry Bell

Lecturer in Performance Studies


I am an academic and practitioner specialising in Applied Theatre, Actor Training, Creative Writing, Theatre-in-the-Round, Early Modern Drama, Theatre and Phenomenology and Creative Industries Employability pedagogy. I am an advocate of practice as research and like to bring together my academic training with my professional experience as a director and applied theatre practitioner.

  • About

    I started at Sheffield Hallam in September 2016 after nearly a decade combining professional theatre directing and applied theatre practice alongside practice-as-research and higher education teaching.

    In terms of theatre directing, I was the Associate Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough between 2013 and 2016, the Education, Community and Literary Director at the Orange Tree Theatre, London between 2009 and 2013 as well working as a freelancer on various productions across the UK.

    In these roles, I directed over twenty professional productions ranging from Shakespearean comedy to Victorian Farce to new writing addressing issues of youth isolation. In 2011 I was nominated and short listed for the Off West End Award for Best Director for a production of Three Farces at the Orange Tree. As well as directing plays I was in charge of the Literary Departments at both theatres and have developed and directed dozens of new plays by both established and emerging voices. At the Orange Tree Theatre I programmed, wrote and led the community and education programme (with a focus on practical explorations of Shakespeare for young people) over a five year period I worked with approximately 55,000 young people and community members across London. I have also delivered outreach programmes for the Almeida, Stephen Joseph Theatre and JASSPA youth theatre.

    Early in my career I worked as an assistant director at the Orange Tree Theatre to Sam Walters, Caroline Smith and Christopher Geelen on a season of Edwardian plays, assistant director to Dominic Dromgoole, Rebecca Gatward and Charlotte Westenra on both Shakespearean and contemporary productions at Shakespeare's Globe and assistant director to Sam West for the 2008 production of Waste at the Almeida.

    Parallel to this professional theatre work, I also wrote and taught modules in Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre Contexts at University of Essex (East 15), Applied Theatre (St Mary's Twickenham) and Theatre Directing (Hull University).

    Having received a university scholarship in 2012, I completed my PhD at Hull University in 2016 which was a practise-based investigation into how young people respond to Shakespeare in performance. As well as holding a doctorate from Hull, I also took a BA degree in Drama there before completed a MA in Staging Shakespeare at Exeter University.

    Theatre Directing Credits

    Stephen Joseph Theatre

    The National Joke by Torben Betts (06.16), Hansel and Gretel by Mike Kenny (12.15), Neville’s Island by Tim Firth (08.15), Slipping by Claudine Toutoungi (10.14), Screenplay by Jimmy Osborne, Isabel Wright, Kate Brower and Claudine Toutoungi (08.14).

    Orange Tree Theatre

    Mottled Lines by Archie Maddocks (07.12), Three Farces by John Madison Morton (06.11), Julius Caesar (05-07.13), Henry V (05-07.10), The Tempest (05-07.11, 10-11.11 & 10-11.12), A Midsummer Night's Dream (05-07.12), Twelfth Night (10-11.09 & 10-11.11), Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet (on-going workshop production delivered in schools 2011-2013) and The Merchant of Venice (03-04.10) by William Shakespeare.

    Dog Ate Cake (Artistic Director)

    A Phenomenon in a Smock Frock by William Brough (02.08), How Stout You're Getting (03.08) & Box and Cox (05.09) by John Madison Morton, Duel in the Dark (04.09) by J Stirling Coyne and Our New Man (06.09) by Mr W. E. Suter.

    Freelance Theatre Director

    News Revue by various writers (Canal Café Theatre 06.08 & 12.08), The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (C Venues, Edinburgh, 07-08.08) , Shakespeare For Breakfast (C venues, Edinburgh, 07-08.08) , Underground(Tristan Bates Theatre, 03.08), The Adventure of Five Hours (East 15, 3rd year production, 08.07), The Tinker’s Wedding by J M Synge and Shakes v. Shav by GB Shaw, Orange Tree Theatre, (07.07). Masterclass by David Pownall, Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn and A Flea in Her Ear by George Feydeau, trans. Philipe Mercredi, all at STERTS Theatre, Liskeard, 2006-2007.

    Specialist areas of interest

    • Shakespeare in Performance
    • Technology Driven Responses to Augusto Boal's Applied Theatre Techniques
    • Spatiality and Proxemics
    • Performance Methodologies
    • Youth Audience Studies
    • Theatre in-the-round
    • New Writing
    • Theatre Comedy
    • Early Modern Theatre
    • Directing
    • The Plays of Vaclav Havel
    • The Application of Improvising Skills to Text Based Performance Methodologies
    • Theatre Phenomenology
    • Visible Audiences
    • Acting Theory
    • Bi-Lingual Theatre Practice
    • The Position of the Performing Arts Within the UK National Curriculum

  • Teaching

    Stage and Screen/Performance

    BA Performance for Stage and Screen

    Applied Theatre, Advanced Acting Techniques, The Actor Training Studio, Scripting a Performance and Show Business; or the Making of Shows.

  • Research

    Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - an international Applied Theatre project using theatre techniques to embody art produced by refugees collected by the installation artist, Bryan McCormack. Video Installation and interactive performance to be shown at the 2017 Biennale Venezia.

    Investigation into the application of Speech Act Theory to Shakespearean actor training in interactive educational contexts.

    A long-form study of the English language performance history of the plays of Vaclav Havel.

    A long-form study into the philosophy behind, and practice of theatre-in-the-round.

  • Publications

  • Media

    I have practical working experience of theatre directing and drama being used as a tool for social change amongst young people and the community. Ever since being made to do public speaking as a potential cure for a stammer as a child, I have enjoyed speaking in front of audiences and sometimes feel more comfortable doing this than speaking to a someone one-to-one!

    I have been interviewed on a variety of topics by BBC Radio, the York Press, the Northern Echo and Richmond and Twickenham Times as well as chairing live events, talks and interviews at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre.

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