Unscripted Interventions: The challenge Tangled Feet pose to England's theatre culture

Katherine Joyce

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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My thesis has at its heart an interrogation into the practice I have co-created with Tangled Feet, a physical ensemble who use processes of improvisation and devising, and who make work which includes apertures for audience influence, often outside of traditional theatre spaces. I construct an argument that this practice, which foregrounds the body and its potential for kinaesthetic affectivity, and which privileges liveness over leaving a legacy, poses challenges for mainstream theatre historiographies and critical mechanisms which often fail to adequately include the embodied presence of the artist and spectator in the analysis.

I use other theorists to explore how a 'text-centricity' evident in British culture which arguably shores up existing power dynamics also propagates reductive binaries that ignore the body's capacity to theorise. I highlight how elements of performance such as kinaesthetic affectivity are often neglected or de-prioritised in the written text, and address this through modelling close analysis of my own and others' performance work with due focus on these elements.

In socially-engaged practice like Tangled Feet's, the ways that audiences interact with the work, particularly in public spaces, are of fundamental importance to the political context of the performance. With particular reference to Arts Council England's policies concerning the broadening definition of 'theatre' in the last decade, and attendant focus on 'accessibility’, I examine the alternative value system that funding structures create around this type of practice.

By bringing into dialogue different theorists and disciplines, including a neuroscientific view of embodied cognition and my own detailed practice observations, my thesis signals what some of the potentials of physical performance might be if we can release it from textual expectations, and how it can challenge conventions, social relationships and political structures.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • McCaw, Dick, Supervisor
  • Rebellato, Dan, Supervisor
  • Williams, Antony, Advisor
Award date27 Jun 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • Tangled Feet
  • physical
  • theatre
  • Performance
  • Ensemble
  • Outdoor Art
  • Outdoor Performance
  • Kinaesthetic
  • Empathy
  • Socially engaged
  • Public space
  • Funding culture
  • Arts Council England
  • Devising
  • Script writing
  • theatre and risk
  • theatre and value
  • theatre and performance
  • theatre and neoliberalism
  • Embodied cognition
  • Liveness
  • Ephemerality
  • Bodies at risk
  • Outdoor Spectacle
  • One Million
  • Inflation
  • All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
  • Directing
  • dramaturgy
  • Physical metaphor
  • Hofesh Shechter

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