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Professor Cathy Turner

Professor of Drama


01392 722426

My research principally concerns dramaturgies of place and space, including walking art, site-based performance and the relationship of performance to the city. 

I am currently working with Dr Evelyn O'Malley (PI) and Prof Tim Coles (Business School) on a Covid-19 rapid response grant (AHRC), 'Outside the Box: Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response'. This project concerns the potential for open air performance to develop appreciation and care for the environment as we attempt to 'build back better' in a safe way. We will be commissioning work for performance in Exeter in 2021 and you can find out more here: Outside the Box – Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response

I am also jointly editing a book on performance and South Indian cities, following a network grant on the politics of performance festivals in South India, and the ways in which they respond to urbanization. I led this collaboration with NIAS, Bengaluru and MOD Institute, an interdisciplinary urban action and research institute, Berlin/Bengaluru. More information can be accessed here:Performing the Periphery – A network between NIAS, Bengaluru, India; University of Exeter, UK and MOD Institute, Berlin

My other current research concerns gardens as spaces of performance, moving beyond the familiar image of outdoor theatre to investigate automata, hired hermits, naumachia, rituals, entertainments, performance art and much more. Gardens and performance have expressed and continue to express our relationship with the non-human, as well as with each other, through a spectrum of performance activities. They are also caught up in ideas of colonialism, nation and the exploitation of humans and plants (the plantationocene in miniature). 

I am always interested in walking performances, and am a core member of artists' collective, Wrights & Sites.

Key publications include Dramaturgy and Architecture: Theatre, Utopia and The Built Environment (2015), nominated for the TAPRA David Bradby award, 2017; Dramaturgy and Performance, 2nd Edition (2016), with Synne Behrndt; The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide (2018) with Wrights & Sites - one of a series of published 'Mis-Guides' which provide provocations for disrupted walking.

I welcome PhDs on walking art, site-specific performance, open air performance, South Asian plantation histories and performance, performance and landscape, performance and architecture, Indian performance art, dramaturgy and performance writing.

My research blog can be found at

Information on Wrights & Sites can be found at

Personal tutees can book a meeting via email. I'm happy to talk and can usually arrange to speak without too much delay.


Research interests

My research concerns the relationship between dramaturgies of performance and experiences of place and space. 

I published my monograph, Dramaturgy and Architecture: Theatre, Utopia and the Built Environment with Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. My current interests grow out of this exploration of relationships between the development of architecture and performance in modernist and postmodernist performance and out of my research into aesthetic walking (scholarly and artistic practice). The climate emergency makes this interest in place and space necessarily an enquiry into our relationship with other life forms, and with land. The work I have been privileged to do in India has made me alert to the imbrication of colonialism and its violence with the exploitation of nature.

I am currently working on a Covid-19 Rapid Response AHRC grant led by Dr Evelyn O'Malley, and in collaboration with Prof Tim Coles in the Business School. Outside the Box – Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response This grant allows us to ask questions about the concerns and innovations from artists and local authorities in developing open air work. We hope to learn from artists who have a history of making such work and an interest in engaging with environmental concerns through that work. We also aim to understand the challenges for local authorities in opening up and facilitate the sharing of inventive new work towards what Kate Soper terms an 'alternative hedonism', in which we embrace the positives of sustainable living.

I am also co-editing a book on performance and South Indian cities as an outcome of the AHRC/GCRF research network, 'The Politics of Performance on the Urban Periphery in South India' (aka 'Performing the Periphery') (2018-19). I led this collaboration with Prof Anindya Sinha and Prof Sharada Srinivasan, NIAS, Bengaluru, and with the involvement of Jerri Daboo (Exeter Drama). We focused on three festivals - the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Fort Kochi, Kerala; the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha in Chennai; and the Vrishchikolsavam Festival at the Sri Poornathrayeesa Temple in Tripunithura, Kerala. We also worked with artists in Bangalore and Kerala. You can find out more here: Performing the Periphery – A network between NIAS, Bengaluru, India; University of Exeter, UK and MOD Institute, Berlin

In working on this project, we found ourselves particularly interested in the dynamics of class, caste and environment. This included the tensions between progressive art curation and elitist structures at the international Biennale; the contradictions and vulnerabilities inherent in developing better care of temple elephants; and the urgent ways in which the Chennai communities used and use performance to fight against the encroachment of polluting industries and unequal urban expansion. In looking to the future, we are developing a project to explore the human-elephant relationship more fully, with performance a striking feature of this relationship.

I'm also interested in gardens as performance spaces, and in the ways in which gardens are structured as performances and am developing a monograph, Performing Gardens. While this work has been delayed due to travel restrictions, I have become interested in gardens as expressions of land dominance, colonialism, displacement and other forms of power. While this is not the only driver for garden-making or garden performance, it appears repeatedly, and is also countered in many forms. I am interested in parallel and sometimes entwined histories of Indian and British gardens.

I am a core member of artist's collective, Wrights & Sites. One of our artworks, comprising 41 signs and titled Everything You Need To Build A Town Is Here can be seen in various locations across Western-super-Mare We are also known for our 'Mis-Guides' or alternative guide-books which offer strategies for making familiar places unfamiliar. In 2008 we curated 'Mis-Guided', a mini-season of artworks at the Belluard Bollwerk International Festival in Switzerland, developing ideas from a similar project for the Vienna Festival/Tanzquartier Wien in 2007. Our most recent book,  'The Architect-walker: A Mis-Guide', was published by Triarchy Press in 2018.

I am joint author, with Synne Behrndt, of Dramaturgy and Performance (Palgrave, 2008) we are also joint editors of Palgrave's 'new dramaturgies' book series. We guest-edited an edition of Contemporary Theatre Review  on that topic in 2010. 

In 2013, I was Principal Investigator on the AHRC funded network, 'Porous Dramaturgy: "Togetherness" and Community in the Structure of the Artwork'. This project investigated the politics of work that makes the audience in some sense co-creators. 

I am a member of the Walking Artists Network and of the FIRT/IFTR Theatre Architecture working group.



Research collaborations

I am currently collaborating with NIAS, Bengaluru, and with MOD Institute Berlin/Bengaluru. See previous sections for a link to this project.

I am series editor of Palgrave's 'New Dramaturgies' series, collaborating with Synne Behrndt, and we have collaborated in researching dramaturgy since 2005.

I have been a collaborator with Wrights & Sites since 1997 - this company comprises myself, Stephen Hodge, Simon Persighetti and Phil Smith.


Research supervision

I welcome PhDs on walking art, site-specific performance, open air performance, South Asian plantation histories and performance, performance and landscape, performance and architecture, Indian performance art, dramaturgy and performance writing.

Here are some of the PhD projects I have supervised recently:

Giselle Garcia: ‘Translation, Adaptation and Walking: The Fate of Shakespearean Performance in Manila's Urban Forms.’  (UoE funding, College of Humanities) (2021)

Elaine Faull: 'Theatre Alibi : An exploration of the impact on well-being and resilience on young audiences', collaborative PhD with Theatre Alibi, Exeter, (UoE funding, College of Humanities) (2020)

Tom Nicholas: 'Representations of Regional English Cities in Contemporary Theatre', College of Humanities funding. (2020)

Aparna Mahiyaria: 'Understanding Politics, Aesthetics and Performance: A Study of the Development of Street Theatre in Delhi, India' (Co-Supervisor, Prof. Shivali Tukdeo, NIAS, Bengaluru, India). (NIAS split site PhD programme, UoE funded). (2019)

Lizzie Philps: 'Parents Performing Walking: how can understandings of walking performance be enhanced through participatory live art works which include children?' (2019)

Evelyn O'Malley: 'Outdoor Shakespeare: Inheriting, reinterpreting and reimagining heritage', (AHRC funding), (2016).

Swati Arora: 'Performance in Public Spaces: Urban Intervention as Participatory Praxis' (NIAS split site PhD programme, UoE funded) (2016).


Research through practice

Artists' publications

  • A Mis-Guide to Kochi, with Smija Vijayan, Manu Mohan Pallivathukkal, Amal Pailey, Rithun Manohar, Kunjikuttan Narayanan, Bangalore, 2019. A Mis-Guide to Kochi/കൊച്ചിയ്ക്ക് ഒരു മിസ്-ഗൈഡ് by - issuu
  • The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites with Stuart Crewes, Exeter, 2018.
  • A Mis-Guide to Anywhere, Wrights & Sites with Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter, 2006.
  • An Exeter Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites with Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter, 2003.
  • A Courtauld Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites and Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter 2003. Commissioned by the Courtauld Institute for their ‘Urban Networks’ exhibition, 2003-5.

Artworks, curation and performance

  • 2021, curated (with Evelyn O'Malley, Tim Coles and Giselle Garcia) 'Outside the Box', four open air performances for Exeter.
  • 2018, curated four street-based performances in Bengaluru as part of the 'Performing the Periphery' project.
  • 2012 Ambulant Architectures, with Wrights & Sites, for Sideways, a festival of walking, Belgium
  • 2010 Everything you need to build a town is here, with Wrights & Sites, public art commission from Situations,funded by CABE as part of Wonders of Weston (
  • 2008 Mis-Guided: Elsewhere in Fribourg, with Wrights & Sites and Belluard Bollwerk International Festival: artistic director, curator, consultant for 6 ‘Mis-Guide’ events taking inspiration from Wrights & Sites initial concept. Contribution to 'Mis-information Office' as a base for the project. Funded by BBI.
  • 2007 Mis-Guide: Stadtverführungen in Wien, with Wrights & Sites, Tanzquartier Wien and Wienerfestwochen: artistic director, curator, consultant for 16 ‘Mis-Guide’ events taking inspiration from Wrights & Sites initial concept. Funded by TQW and the Wiener Festwochen.
  • 2007 Possible Forests, with Wrights & Sites, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World. A project involving a playful re-mapping of the forest, culminating in an exhibition and practical forum at CCANW. Funded by CCANW and Wrights & Sites.
  • 2004     Blue Boy Walks, with Wrights & Sites, commissioned by Spacex Gallery, Exeter to accompany their ‘Homeland’ exhibition, Exeter City Centre and Winchester.
  • 2002     And On The Thousandth Night…, improvised performance with Forced Entertainment, Kunsten Festival Des Arts, Brussels.
  • 1999     The Quay Thing, with Wrights & Sites. A major A4E funded site-specific project on Exeter’s Quayside.


  • 2009 Nora and I, dramaturgical consultant for devised work by Marianne Sharp, Winchester (ACE-funded)
  • 2008     Writing Space, a practical research project exploring new dramaturgical practice for work with performance writers across an expanded field. Supported by AHRC research grant (£13,000).
  • 2007     An Infinite Line: contributor to Dramaturgical Labs which formed preliminary research for this work by Fevered Sleep, shown as part of the Brighton Festival in 2008.
  • 1995     Platform 4. Co-produced a season of new writing, working in collaboration with Theatre Alibi.

Theatre Writing

  • 2013 Of Gardens, audio piece for Exeplorer, Ignite Festival, Exeter
  • 2003     Three Writings/Wrightings – three performance-as-research projects, funded by Arts Council England and documented by Arts Archives. Air, with Dorinda Hulton and Peter Hulton, Exeter tEXt Festival; Camden People’s Theatre, London; Exeter University. I Am Going Outside And May Be Some Time, with Jane Munro, Exeter Phoenix. An Alliance, with Julia Barclay, Exeter University.
  • 2001 Outer Space/Inner Space with Phil Smith at the Physics Department, Exeter University. Funded by NESTA, EPSRC, SWA and IOP. It toured schools in southern England.
  • 2000 Eric’s Wasteland, Commissioned by Devon Arts In Schools Initiative, performed by and in three Devon schools.
  • 1999 Pure Gold and Moonshine, a short play commissioned by Paines Plough, Bristol Old Vic.
  • 1999 Chandler's Carousel, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
  • 1999 The Podfather, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
  • 1997 The Golden Fleece, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
  • 1997 Richard IV or The Stuff of Dreams, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
  • 1997 The Man Who Would be King, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
  • 1996 Northanger Abbey, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
  • 1996 The Lone Rooster, The Common Players. Touring the West Country.
  • 1996 A Savage Song, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring the West Country.
  • 1993 Venus and Adonis, devised with Orchard Theatre.
  • 1993 The Seven Voyages of Pericles, The Common Players, touring the West Country.
  • 1993 Glorious Death, Produced and directed by Theatre Alibi, for the Platform 4 new writing season.
  • 1992 The Fox's Tale, devised with Orchard Theatre. An outdoor/pub show touring North Devon.


External impact and engagement

'Outside the Box' is a project that engages local authorities, including our own City Council, and artists around the country, pooling their experiences to establish a range of possibilities and potentials for open air performance to 'build back better' in terms of our engagement with the environment. We are also working with Exeter Culture on this. Four major commissions will enhance the city's offer for leisure activities in summer 2021.

The 'Performing the Periphery' project included elements of public engagement through curation and commissioning of locally-based artists in Bengaluru and Kochi. Further impact may arise from aspects of our research into the politics of performance - both its role in shaping narratives of place, and the impacts of urbanisation on long-standing performance practices, often involving animals.

Wrights & Sites have curated work for festivals and a public art work for Weston-super-Mare. Our 'Mis-Guides' have been used in schools and colleges worldwide. Most recently, I have contributed to discussions at RAMM concerning ways of engaging children with the collections.

My project on 'Porous Dramaturgy' has brought academics and practitioner-academics together with practitioners and producers outside the academy in discussions about interactivity and community. This has facilitated workshops held in Northern Ireland by project partners Tinderbox and artist Katarina Pejovic, which culminated in a workshop demonstration and discussion for an invited audience. This workshop, was partly concerned with knowledge exchange and partly brought local concerns to bear in considering and developing the research.


Contribution to discipline

Editor of Palgrave 'New Dramaturgies' series, with Synne Behrndt.



In 2022 I will be teaching a new module on 'Theatre of Space, Form and Colour', with a focus on the Bauhaus. This is a development of previous work within the first year 'Research and Performance' module, in which we explored the work of the Bauhaus in 1920s Germany (2015). This blog entry, coming from that project, gives a good sense of the way in which my research sometimes informs my teaching, and vice versa. It includes the text of a presentation I made on this teaching work to the Prague Quadrennial in June that year, at which I was proud to show videos of the final performance, also found here.

Other modules I have led or taught on at Exeter include: Theatrical Interpretation: Practitioners; Playwriting; Dramaturgy; Performance and Interpretation; Practical Essay; Dissertation; Theatre and Ecology. I have also convened MA Modules in Performance Writing and Playwriting.


Modules taught


Cathy Turner is Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter. Her book, Dramaturgy and Architecture: Theatre, Utopia and the Built Environment, was published by Palgrave in 2015. She is joint author, with Synne Behrndt, of Dramaturgy and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan 2008), and joint editor, with Behrndt, of Palgrave's 'New Dramaturgies' book series. She is a core member of Wrights & Sites, a group of artists whose work is concerned with our relationship with space and place. Their most recent work is The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide (2018). In 2010, the company completed a major public art commission for Weston-super-Mare, curated by Situations and Field Arts and funded by CABE. She has published on dramaturgy, writing for performance, space and place and led grants investigating performance and urbanisation in South India, and dramaturgies that are 'porous', inviting participation.