Intercultural Performer Training and Performance

Submitting Institution

University of Exeter

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies

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Summary of the impact

Intercultural performer training techniques developed by Zarrilli's and Loukes' practice-based research in the Centre for Contemporary Performance Practice have led to new techniques which have informed intercultural performer training worldwide. This research has deepened the quality of artistic productions, informing and influencing theatre works which have received awards and international acclaim. Centre members have also enriched public appreciation of performance through documentary and supporting material. The work of Peter Hulton in establishing Exeter Digital Archives has informed the recent shift in British publishing houses towards releasing audio-visual performance documentation.

Underpinning research

Researchers in the Centre for Contemporary Performance Practice investigate, through practice and theoretical reflection, the mechanisms of cultural exchange in performance. They also investigate the principles and practices of actor training, particularly the investigation of culturally diverse methods of training. Their work includes experimentation with and reflection on the effects and results of this intercultural exchange. This interdisciplinary and intercultural research informs performance training, practice and processes. Researchers also develop and model creative modes of documentation/archiving of practice-based research within the subject area.

At Exeter since 2000, Phillip Zarrilli's prize-winning research (including the ATHE Outstanding Book Award in 2010) explores the ways in which Asian performance practices can be adopted and adapted to inform contemporary cosmopolitan performer training and performance in a global context. Zarrilli's research draws on his own lifelong training in Asian cultural practices, e.g. mastery of Indian and Chinese martial arts (kalarippayattu and taiqiquan), and extensive practical experience with noh and kathakali. Zarrilli's workload is balanced so as to allow him appropriate periods of time during the year when these professional impact activities can be carried out. Since the mid 1990s he has taught and applied his training methods worldwide. In 2001 he established the first 'traditional' earth-floor Kalari outside India—the Tyn y parc CVN Kalari/Studio in West Wales—recognized by the CVN Kalari Sangham. In 2000 he also established The Llanarth Group, an international association of theatre/performance artists whose work utilizes Zarrilli's psychophysical actor training.

At Exeter since 2003, Rebecca Loukes' research into the methodologies of Elsa Gindler and intercultural training (particularly through the yogic and kalaripayattu traditions) has been key to the work of her company, RedCape Theatre, founded in 2008, and has also informed workshops for audience members. Her recent publications and practical research have explored approaches to contemporary physical theatre training. RedCape has produced three productions to date (2008 and two in 2011), gaining substantial funding, two awards (finalising in three others) and critical acclaim. Loukes' publications have also helped to disseminate and raise the profile of Gindler's work internationally.

The excellence of Zarrilli's and Loukes' research is evidenced by external grant awards to support their research (ACE, AHRC), and publication in a peer-reviewed journals and leading international scholarly publishers (Routledge). Zarrilli's Psychophysical Acting won the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (USA) Outstanding Book Award in 2010. The book is accompanied by a DVD by Peter Hulton, and is an example of the work he undertakes with Exeter Digital Archives in enhancing the impact of the Department's research.

References to the research

All research listed is peer reviewed for international scholarly journals and/or international scholarly publishers, and/or externally funded.

1. Phillip Zarrilli: Psychophysical Acting: an intercultural approach after Stanislavski. London: Routledge. With interactive DVD-Rom by Peter Hulton (2009). ATHE Outstanding Book Award (2010).


2. Phillip Zarrilli: director and performer, The Llanarth Group, The Beckett Project (2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012). Audience figures to date: 3,500 approx. Los Angeles Area Theatre Awards for 'best actress' and 'courageous production', (2000). (Submitted RAE2008)

3. Phillip Zarrilli: director and performer, The Llanarth Group, Told By the Wind (2010). Audience figures to date: 1,200 approx. Funded by AHRC, £28, 619 and Arts Council Wales, £4,200.

4. Rebecca Loukes: co-creator and performer, RedCape Theatre, The Idiot Colony, total funding £58,751 (ACE 2008, £11,751; ACE 2009, £47,000). Scotsman Fringe First for Innovation and New Writing, 2008; Total Theatre Award for Best Visual Theatre, 2008; Finalist, Holden Street Theatres, Adelaide Award, 2008; Finalist, Amnesty International Freedom of Speech Award, 2008 Toured the UK (92 performances).

5. Dorinda Hulton: Co-director and Dramaturg, Echo-Arts, The Antigone Project (2010-11). Funded by Mark Ward Fund (£1000); Ministry for Education and Culture, Cyprus (7000 euros (2010); 7000 euros (2011)); Modul Dance (2,900 euros).

6. Peter Hulton: Exeter Digital Archives, founded 2004, an international moving image resource for performance practice research, consisting of twenty-one collections, documenting 411 artists, including researchers listed above. The documentation is available on DVD and is accessible via the University intranet at

Details of the impact

Informing intercultural performer training worldwide

Zarrilli's psychophysical actor training process has achieved worldwide impact on performers and training programmes through his award-winning publications and international workshops.

The impact of Zarrilli's research into the actor training process is demonstrated by the adoption of his work (both theory and practice):

- as part of the core curriculum at drama schools, including the Korean National University of the Arts (Seoul), RESAD (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Madrid, Spain) (5.2) and the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore. The Director of RESAD attests that `Over 150 students have been trained by me in Zarrilli's comprehensive approach [...] over the last decade. It has become an established line of work in RESAD's Movement Department, and plays a central role in the curriculum for Acting in Physical Theatre.' (5.2)

- has been shared with three hundred people at Zarrilli's studio in Wales, since 2000, bringing together professional performers and directors from Amsterdam, Greece, Poland, Spain, Germany, Korea, Austria, US, Canada and the UK.

- is unique in applying traditional practices to contemporary performance problems: `Phillip opened me to an entirely different way to work with my dance form'(5.3).

- has become a core practice for several independent performance companies including Theatre Asou (Austria), Gaitkrash (Ireland) and Theatre P'yut (Korea).

Zarrilli has delivered over twenty-five invited workshops worldwide since 2008 and is Resident Fellow at Freie Universitat Berlin's Research Institute, 2010-2013.

Deepening the quality of artistic productions

Psychophysical actor training is core practice for Zarrilli's own professional performance company, the Wales-based Llanarth Group whose productions have entertained international audiences and received critical acclaim. Told By the Wind (3.3) (2009-11) toured to Wales, Portugal and Germany with further performances (with workshop and discussion) at The Grotowski Institute (Poland), and AMI Theatre, Tokyo, Japan. A second work, The Echo Chamber, was created with Arts Council Funding, in Cardiff, 2012. The award-winning series of Beckett productions, The Beckett Project (3.2) toured to the Malta Arts Festival in 2012 and continued in Cork with Play+ in collaboration with Gaitkrash at the Cork Sculpture Factory (2011) and Cork Opera House (2012).

Loukes co-created and performed in the award-winning, critically acclaimed (5.4) production The Idiot Colony (3.4) with her company, RedCape Theatre, which entertained audiences at 92 public performances at significant UK venues. An Arts Council report records an audience member's comment: `This is the most powerful piece of theatre I have ever seen,' (5.5). The project focuses on the combination of professional training approaches from Gindler work and Asian martial-meditation arts, offered by Loukes, with the methodologies taught by other company members. RedCape were one of only two UK companies to be selected to perform at the ICA as part of London International Mime Festival. See below for awards. In 2012, the success of this led to further ACE funding (£75 000) for 1, Beach Road, with Loukes as Dramaturg, touring nationally.

Enriching public appreciation of these through supporting material

Creating innovative and fit-for-purpose methods of documentation and archiving of performance training, process, and practice is central to sustaining and developing Exeter Drama's research. Theoretical questions and developments of best practice are part of our research infrastructure. The work of Senior Research Fellow Peter Hulton in archiving and documentation is practice-based research in its experimental and practical investigations into appropriate modes of documentation. Hulton's work on Exeter Digital Archives (EDA), founded in 2004, is to create an international spread of archives, brought together under one imprint in order to acknowledge the dynamic range of contemporary performance practice; these are available as a resource for performance practice research. Hulton has pioneered methods of documenting and annotating performance, and has provided DVDs to accompany publications, pioneering such use of audio-visual material. His work is facilitated by dedicated Drama Technical manager and technicians, employed full-time to support uses of IT in the Department's research and teaching.

Hulton is 'One of the only people to attempt to document performance practice on a systematic basis' and his `indispensible' work at Exeter Digital Archives (5.6) has been seminal to a recent shift within British publishing towards the distribution of audio-visual material related to performing arts (conversations with Routledge `inspired [the editor] to look seriously at the idea of creating [their] own archive') (5.6). Hulton was invited to join this editorial board, and several of his recordings will be released in new editions in the series. Similarly, his involvement with Methuen publishing informs their new audio-visual releases. Further independent ventures have made work of companies available internationally. Echo Arts (Cyprus) note that `All these projects added to the history of Echo Arts in international exchange and further to our existing work on art across the divide and art beyond borders.' (5. 7) For example, four DVD-ROMs in collaboration with EDA (2003, 2006) have raised the profiles of Theatre Alibi and Foursight Theatre internationally. Two were published by the Open University in 2008, one as course material (2,500+ copies), distributed worldwide. D. Hulton has worked with the EDA to develop 12 education packs to accompany EDA documentation of Theatre Alibi's work since 2001, including Why the Whales Came (2001, 2003), Teapot (2002, 2008), Wild One (2004), Bonjour Bob (2005), How to Hug Trees (2006), Crowstarver (Workshop pack 2006, 2012), Lost and Found (2007), High Muck a Muck (2009), Flying Visit (2010), Deep Down Cowboys (2011), Cabbage Heart (2012), and I Believe in Unicorns (2013). EDA's work for Theatre Alibi has been used by teachers and students in numbers in the realm of 100,000, and the feedback from teachers has been excellent.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Individual corroboration: mails/letters/documents sent to institution

  1. Director and lecturer, Royal College of Dramatic Arts (RESAD), Madrid (e-mail supplied to institution)
  2. Bharata Natyam Dancer, Toronto (e-mail supplied to institution)
  3. Editor, Theatre and Performance, Routledge publishing.
  4. Response from leading intercultural critic, academic, and practitioner (email supplied to the institution)
  5. Response Echo Arts (Cyprus) (letter supplied to the institution)

Public documentation of impact

  1. ATHE Selection Committee, Los Angeles
  2. Review of The Idiot Colony, The Guardian, Aug 19th, 2008
  3. Arts Council Case Study of RedCape, Idiot Colony