Transformative applied theatre innovations: impactful puppetry and storytelling-theatre

The applied theatre research of Dr Erika Hughes and Dr Matt Smith informed the Action against Covid Transmission (ACT) and Tupumue projects. The projects delivered training and developed resources to support communities in the informal settlement of Mukuru in Nairobi, Kenya. ACT raised awareness of the COVID-19 crisis and disseminated related public health messages through puppetry and storytelling. Hughes’ research also impacted upon military veterans in the UK and the US, helping them and their audiences to work through experiences and traumas of wartime service, and Smith’s applied theatre work impacted marginalised communities in the Portsmouth area. 

Performing the musical archive: research transforming repertoires, programming and performance practices

Critical musicological research by Prof George Burrows and Colin Jagger impacted on musical programming and practitioner and public understandings of the performance and reception of music. Burrows’ ‘Pompey Messiah’ project engaged Portsmouth audiences and performers in critical discourses surrounding musical authorship and ‘Diva’ performance conventions through public talks, exhibitions and recreating an 1812 version of Handel’s Messiah. Burrows’ critical edition of Stanford’s Cello Concerto (2012) informed cellists’ in the UK, US and Mexico and Jagger’s critical edition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard (2016) impacted on a leading company in New York City and the Sullivan Society in the UK to produce further research-informed productions. 

Infrastructure and facilities

Our research has been supported by investment in new specialist facilities including our White Swan Building for Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts and Film and Screen Studies, developed in partnership with Portsmouth’s historic New Theatre Royal. The University has also invested in screen studies and music technology, refurbishing our Eldon Building to include television and music studios, featuring the latest technology, and a cinema for teaching, research and public engagement events.

Building on the existing facilities and our strong teaching and research culture, our Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries won £3.6 million from Solent Local Enterprise Partnership for a new Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality (CCIXR), providing state-of-the-art XR labs and multimedia facilities. CCIXR builds on our track record of interdisciplinary projects combining creative and immersive extended reality with arts and humanities research, which contribute to the University's Future and Emerging Technologies research theme. The facility, located within the Eldon Building, features cutting-edge technologies including photogrammetry, volumetric capture, and virtual production technology. These world-leading facilities will have an invaluable impact on our practice-based research in music technology, performance and screen studies. They will also drive future income generation.

Collaborations and partnerships

We have been recognised for our excellent collaborations and partnerships with key stakeholders. These include local, national and international organisations that are key to our research and its dissemination, such as our collaborations with Journeys Festival International, Portsmouth Comic Con, London’s well-established Cinema Museum, DarkFest, and No.6 Cinema.

In addition, our staff have collaborated with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and the FirstLight Trust, a military wellness charity. Our research has resulted in impactful collaborations with the Mukuru Arts Centre in Nairobi for their Action against Covid Transmission (ACT) project. 

This is our first submission to UOA33. It results from focused strategic development and investment in Music, Drama, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies research.

Three of the four schools in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) submitted staff research to the unit:

The majority of our research has been judged as internationally excellent and world leading. Our researchers conduct high-quality research in the areas of musical theatre, jazz and race, voice studies, music editing, dance for the musical stage, theatre and ecology, Holocaust theatre, sound and electroacoustic composition, applied theatre, screen media and representation, genre studies, film history, fantasy and animation, transnational film studies, transmedia fan studies and queer and transgender cultures. We present our research through a broad spectrum of outputs, including monographs, book chapters, journal articles, compositions, critical editions of music, as well as software and practice-research projects involving performance. Research funding comes from a diverse selection of cultural funding streams including such bodies as the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC); Innovate UK; the British Association of American Studies; the Harry Ransom Fellowship/Robert De Niro Endowed Fund; Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities; and Film Hub South East. It has been recognised that we have an internationally excellent research environment.

Results in REF 2021

  • 64% of our research outputs were judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading.
  • 50% of our impact was rated as having very considerable or outstanding reach and significance.
  • 67.5% of our research environment was judged as having the vitality and sustainability to produce internationally excellent or world-leading research.

Research areas 

Our submission reflects the breadth and depth of our research. One of our strengths is our focus on equality and diversity and ethical concerns. We publish high-quality research in the areas of racial representations and antiracism within musical culture; ethics and the representation of war in film and television; representations of race and ethnicity in creative theatre practices and music, Palestinian and Israeli film, transnational, queer and trans representations in screen cultures; filmic narratives of migration in Central America, Mexico and the United States; puppetry work with immigrant/refugee communities;  Holocaust memorials and performance and trauma theatre and ecology, and ethics in fantasy film.
Research groups are an essential part of our research culture and integrate senior researchers, early and mid-career researchers and PhD students.

Our research groups are: 

  • Music, Dance, Drama and Performing Arts integrates practitioners and theoreticians and produces especially impactful research.
  • Media Culture and Communication brings together research on media industries drawing on our specialisms in popular culture and international cinema.
  • Conflict and Culture focuses on ethical concerns in relation to media representations of war and conflict.
  • Screen Practice focuses on practice research in the screen industries.
  • Music Technology primarily creates practice research through the application of sound-related technologies.

Impact case studies

Impactful public engagement with our research has long been a part of research practice at Portsmouth and was captured in our two impact case studies: