Investigating performance practice – Adam Ledger

I’m Adam Ledger from the Department of Drama
and Theatre Arts here at the University of Birmingham. And my research focus is on performance
practice. And what I mean by that is that I’m interested in investigating and making
work that looks at how it is that directors, how it is that theatre makers, how it is that
actors and performance makers create work. So really investigating the detail of how
work is created and put out into the industry. And then the outputs that I create are both
practice-based and traditional publications. So for a long time I investigated the work
of Eugenio Barba, who is a very well-known director from the Odin Teatret which is now
based in Denmark, it started in Norway. Recently I’ve just published a book called
‘The Director and Directing: Craft, Process and Aesthetic in Contemporary Theatre’. And
that is a focus on contemporary directing and it uses what is termed the cognitive turn
in recent theorisation. So I take a branch of that, which is neuroaesthetics which actually
comes from visual art and I apply that to the study of contemporary directors to figure
out how it is that directors make choices. Neuroaesthetics is about how the brain makes
artistic experiences and also understands aesthetic experience as well. So that’s a
very new field and I think I’m the first person to attempt to do that. Then, in terms of my practice-based outputs,
I have a company called The Bone Ensemble and we make work for a number of sectors,
both indoor and outdoor work. Recently to align with my research interests, we’ve been
making work that is about the environment. This is family-based work, work for children
and their parents and carers, which is very participatory in its format. We’ve just made
a piece called ‘Where’s My Igloo Gone?’ which toured all over the country, it’s going to
be remade abroad and toured again and that’s about climate change. There, the goal of that
work and inviting the audience into that experience is to look at that very pressing environmental
concern but in a very positive way. What I want to challenge is work that just presents
what I call a doom and gloom scenario, that just tends to present the problem. It doesn’t
help people think what I can I do? How can I challenge some of these problems? Now, we’re
working with various collaborators including Professor David Hannah from Geography here
on a piece called ‘Gulp!’, which as the name might imply, is about water. It’s about the
politics of water. We’re looking at where does water come from? What happens if there’s
too much? For example, if there’s a flood. What happens if there’s too little? So, it
could be a drought. And how that water is controlled as well. So we want to again find
a very, very positive fun way to convey some of those messages. It’s about making new dramaturgies.

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