High Royds Asylum, Bradford. Photographs by Mark Davis

Photograph by Mark Davis

High Royds Asylum, Bradford

Isolated Acts: Theatre in Asylums and Hospitals

Start Date: June 2011
End Date: November 2012
Principal Investigator: Dr Anna Harpin, University of Exeter
Co-Investigator: Dr Juliet Foster, University of Cambridge

The Department of Drama has been awarded an important AHRC grant to investigate the history of performance both in, and about, psychiatric asylums. The project, entitled Isolated Acts, is a collaboration between the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge. Isolated Acts investigates the practice of theatre and performance in psychiatric environments. The twentieth century has witnessed manifold changes to the delivery of mental health care. This network is particularly concerned with the movement from asylums to hospitals to community based structures in relation to the theatre practice taking place therein. By drawing together a broad range of academics, clinicians, and practitioners this research network explores the plural ways in which theatre and performance has been used within psychiatric contexts. The network considers the performance histories of, and current practices within, these psychiatric care spaces. Moreover, it interrogates the changing patterns of care, the radical shifts in architectural environment, and the mutable understanding of psychiatric illnesses and how these have impacted on performance work in care settings. Concurrently, the network deliberates how professional theatre practice has sought to represent psychiatric environments in the same period. How have practitioners attempted to translate psychiatric spaces, and individuals' experiences of these spaces into theatre aesthetics? By placing the work that takes place within psychiatric contexts with work that takes places about these psychiatric environments in dialogue, the network is able to reflect more fully on the practice of theatre and performance in psychiatric contexts.

The Principal investigator for this grant is Dr Anna Harpin and the Co-investigator is Dr Juliet Foster. The outputs of the grant are a website, a symposium, a conference, and an edited collection of research papers.

Link to the Isolated Acts website