Mr James Rowson

Supervised by

  • Chris Megson First/primary/lead supervisor


Research interests

My doctorate thesis ‘Politics and Puntinism: A Critical Examination of New Russian Drama’ examines Russian theatre since 2000 in the context of the Putin era. My research contextualises and critically explores how New Drama has been shaped by and adapted to the political, social, and cultural landscape under Putinism. It draws on close analysis of a variety of plays written by a burgeoning collection of playwrights from across Russia, examining how this provocative and political artistic movement has emerged as one of the most vehement critics of the Putin regime. My thesis considers how the manifold New Drama repertoire addresses key facets of Putinism by performing suppressed and marginalised voices in public arenas. I argue that New Drama has challenged the established, normative discourses of Putinism presented in the Russian media and by Putin himself, and demonstrates how these productions have situated themselves in the context of the nascent opposition movement in Russia. By doing so, my thesis offers a fresh perspective on how New Drama’s precarious engagement with Putinism provokes political debate in contemporary Russia, and challenges audience members to consider their own role in contesting narratives tendentious to Putin’s leadership. 

Building on my research at undergraduate and Masters level I also have an ongoing interest in classical theatre and its reception and performance in the twenty-first century, in particular Old Comedy and plays of Aristophanes.

Before starting my PhD at Royal Holloway I previously worked full time in the theatre industry in a variety of positions, including in Shakespeare’s Globe’s education department and as a producer for a number of London based theatres and companies.

From 2014-2016 I was co-editor of the postgraduate journal Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, which is based at Royal Holloway:



Alongside my PhD research I have been a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway. In this role I have designed a course on Russian theatre, which I taught in both the 2014-15 and 2016-17 academic years. The module introduces students to key productions and theoretical texts in the Russian canon from the late nineteenth century to date, and explores the development of new theatre practices in Russia and their enduring influence in both Russian and Western theatre performance and production. It enables students to understand the relevance of particular social, cultural, and historical contexts in which Russian theatre and playwriting has evolved.

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