Mr David Bullen

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Research interests

My research focuses on the representation of gender and sexuality in Greek tragedy, particularly in modern performance engagements with these texts. My thesis, “Performing the Feminisms of Euripides’ The Bacchae in Britain,” documents the hugely significant but under discussed contributions of women to the performance history of one of the most popular Greek tragedies on the contemporary stage. As such, I explore neglected productions such as the 1908 English-language premiere staged by suffragist Lillah McCarthy in addition to reappraising major adaptations such as Caryl Churchill and David Lan’s A Mouthful of Birds. This work sits on the interdisciplinary faultline between theatre history, contemporary theatre-making practices, and classical reception studies. It incorporates research into methods and theories of adaptation, feminist epistemology, and theatre historiography. More broadly I am interested in how narratives, particularly Greek myths, circulate through different cultures, forms, and historical moments. In this respect, I have published and spoken on Greek myth in popular cinema and the intersection between Neo-Victorianism and comic books.

My thesis is supported by a college fee waiver scholarship and while studying I have received two further funding awards: one in 2014 to attend an international conference at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and the Una-Ellis Fermor Award in 2017, which funded a research trip to the archives at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

My work as a director, writer, and dramaturg, while not a formal element of my thesis, nevertheless informs it. Since 2011, I have been involved in a number of practical engagements with The Bacchae, exploring the play from a variety of different approaches. This sits alongside my wider work as a theatre practitioner, much of which engages with Greek tragedy and myth. I have advised and acted as dramaturg on a number of productions of Greek drama, and written adaptations of The Bacchae, Sophocles’ Electra, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and Aristophanes’ The Clouds. In 2017 I produced the English text for King’s College London’s production of Medea. Most recently I have been commissioned by a theatre in New York to produce an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone.

In 2017 I was invited to become Guest Archive Associate at Oxford University's Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, curating an exhibition on the performance history of The Bacchae. This continues my work with the APGRD as part of the organising committee for their annual postgraduate symposium, jointly convened by Oxford and Royal Holloway, a role I have had since 2015. I was also part of the organising committee for the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in the Reception of the Ancient World, convened that year across several University of London colleges, in 2014.

Personal profile

After completing both my BA in Drama and Creative Writing and Theatre Research MA at Royal Holloway, I co-founded By Jove, a London-based socialist feminist theatre company. I am the current Co-Artistic Director of the company. Our work remakes old stories into new theatre, drawing on myth, legend, and the canon to generate performance that connects to female and queer experiences in the twenty first century UK. Working collaboratively as a group and with unique performance spaces, our past productions include: a version of Othello with the lead as a gay woman of colour in the modern British military, performed at the Bussey Building in Peckham; a one woman performance combining installation art and spoken word in a retelling of The Bacchae; and a pantomime reimagining of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In addition to my role in By Jove, I have worked as a writer, director, and dramaturg for projects in the UK and the US. Between October 2017 and June 2018, I worked with director Rebecca McCutcheon, designer Nicola Hewitt-George and students in the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance at Royal Holloway on "Staging Suffrage," a project celebrating theatre and theatricality in the women's suffrage movement. Our performance work on the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, the first law to give women the vote in the UK, was featured in news publications such as the Guardian, the BBC, and the Washington Post.

Since 2015, I have been the Executive Producer of the annual Greek Play at King's College London, an event that has gathered an international reputation for excellence since its inception in 1953. In my first year at KCL I expanded the Classics Department's theatre output by inaugurating a second annual performance project, which as of 2018 has become known as 'Fragments,' a celebration and exploration of classical reception in all its diversity. Also in 2015, I took part in the Théâtre du Soleil's École Nomade, working closely with acclaimed director Ariane Mnouchkine and actors from the company.

I am a member of the British Academy funded Art of Fragments network, a collection of academics and artists working on an eclectic range of projects, and sit on the board of trustees for theatre company the Actors of Dionysus.

Teaching

I have been teaching drama at various levels since 2010. I have taught GSCE and A-level students as well as children aged 4-12. From 2013-2018, I was a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance at Royal Holloway, and am now a Teaching Fellow there. I have taught courses on subjects such as: critical theory; performance-making; the reception of violent women in theatre and film; witchcraft and magic in theatre; modern adaptations of Greek tragedy; philosophies and theorisations of tragedy; and Greek tragedy in its original context. Since 2015, I have supervised a number of written research projects undertaken by PDIS students in the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills. Beyond Royal Holloway, I have taught practical approaches to Greek drama at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance.

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