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Science in Performance: Theatre and the Politics of Engagement

Science in Performance: Theatre and the Politics of Engagement

Simon Parry


This book is about science in theatre and performance. It explores how theatre and performance engage with emerging scientific themes from artificial intelligence to genetics and climate change. The book covers a wide range of performance forms, from the performance of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony to Broadway musicals, from experimental contemporary performance and opera to educational theatre, Somali poetic drama, and grime videos. It features work by pioneering companies including Gob Squad, Headlong Theatre, and Theatre of Debate, as well as offering a fresh analysis of global blockbusters such as Wicked and Urinetown.


The book offers a detailed description and analysis of theatre and performance practices, as well as a broader commentary on the politics of theatre as audience engagement with science. It documents important examples of collaborative practice with an extended discussion of the Theatre of Debate process developed by Y Touring Theatre Company, an exploration of bilingual theatre-making in East London, and an account of how grime MCs and dermatologists ended up making a film together in Birmingham.


The interdisciplinary approach draws on contemporary research in theatre and performance studies in combination with key ideas from science studies. It shows how theatre can offer important perspectives on what the philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers has called ‘cosmopolitics’. The book argues that theatre can flatten knowledge hierarchies and bring together different ways of knowing.

Manchester University Press

Simon Parry

Simon Parry is a Senior Lecturer in Drama and Arts Management and Associate Director for Social Responsibility in the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures at the University of Manchester.


I am interested in the way theatre and performance engage people with ideas and how the arts more broadly affect society. This is reflected in my research into collaborations between artists, communities, and scientific experts. It also influences my teaching about drama in education, activist performance, arts management, and contemporary performance practice.


A lot of my research has emerged from my experience of working with creative practitioners in a variety of contexts. I am currently working with Contact Theatre on their development of health and science programming. This work builds on my time as a board member of the theatre (2011-2018) helping to embed such themes within their work. I recently spent some time exploring the role of performance in developing understanding of dementia with Louise Wallwein, Jaydev Mistry, Manchester Camerata and Dr Helen Pusey. This resulted in the Dementia Voices project and the award-winning performance Hidden by Louise Wallwein. In the past, I have worked on the role of theatre in science education with the Theatre of Debate.


Before coming to Manchester, I worked at the charity The Wellcome Trust (2002-2009) where I developed a range of national and international programmes promoting public and community engagement with biomedical research. I have taught at the Royal Holloway University of London and the University of Klagenfurt (Austria) as well as managed and evaluated a number of arts and education projects across the UK and Europe. I have a BA in Modern Languages (Nottingham), an MA in Text and Performance Studies (King’s College London / Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), and a Ph.D. in Drama (Royal Holloway University of London).

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