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Dr. Anna Birch


Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London




gender, site-specific performance, space, place, costume, site, her-story, history, feminist performance, 18th century, dissent, performativity

Thesis Title

Staging and Citing Gendered Meanings: A practice-based study of representational strategies in live and mediated performance


I offer this written thesis in partial fulfilment of the degree of PhD, and also submit a body of
(performance process and production) work in video format on a DVD-Rom. These components together comprise the full submission. The written thesis draws upon and analyses the process-based work contained on the DVD-Rom.

The thesis as a whole offers a body of work and a method for recontextualising that work, and for reframing it in multimedia format. The visual and written texts on the DVD-Rom give equal weight to the performance and written research comprising this submission. Building upon that set of materials and meanings, but leaving deliberate gaps and spaces for debate and interpretation between them as well, I have attempted to offer a useful but also a flexible toolkit for use by future practitioners and scholars.
My argument is that gender visibility in live and mediated performance can be enhanced by the use of the dramaturgical toolkit.

Method: Taking as my case study Di’s Midsummer Night Party, a site-based devised performance (this collaboration in 2000 was created with a scenographer, five professional actors and 20 extras, performed over five nights in an 18th-century house), I design and theorise a dramaturgical toolkit. The theoretical base is developed from established theoretical concerns, feminist performance theory and social semiotics to analyse an original contemporary performance work.

Original contribution: The dramaturgical toolkit is designed to be used by artists, students and academics. My analytical tool is being used in teaching and is valuable to others who want to teach/research gender representation in live and mediated performance. Tests during development and subsequently have taken place with performance design and fashion students at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where the kit encouraged the articulation and analysis of student work. The dramaturgical toolkit helps the facilitator to push students towards articulation and analysis of “bite-sized” bits that are distilled enough to be clear, and therefore useful for making and analysing performance. This process of distillation helps artists and students to focus down and to reach new levels of understanding.



Professor Anna Birch FRSA has lived in Stoke Newington for over 30 years, in the late 1990’s she learnt that Mary Wollstonecraft lived and worked on Newington Green in the 18th century. As a theatre, director, researcher and activist she has made work to celebrate both the life and legacy of Wollstonecraft. She writes about her ‘living monuments’ practice and has curated exhibitions, published books, screened films inside and outside, commissioned writers and artists and collaborated with Hackney Museum, Walking Women, Clissold House, N16, Portavillion, Gillett Square, Rio Cinema, Glasgow Women’s Library, New Unity @Newington Green, Mildmay Community Centre, Newington Green Action Group, Imece Women’s Centre, Air Gallery, NYC, Queen Mary University and GraceGraceGrace plus countless creatives to celebrate our extraordinary transhistorical neighbour.

Anna is a founder member of the Mary on the Green Campaign and a member of the Centenary Action Group (CAG) Chaired by Dr Helen Pankhurst

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