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Date: Friday, July 9th 2.00 – 3.30 p.m. London time

Between Past and Future. Rewriting Histories and Intergenerational Collaboration in Developing Theatre for Young People

Centre of Applied and Participatory Arts, University of East London

This discussion will consider ways in which the contemporary ‘crisis’ of Covid might be understood as a watershed which will demand a new form of engagement by theatre-makers with young people.  The session is open to academics and theatre practitioners and designed to invite participation in a research bid.

The discussion will explore the relevance of theatre histories and historic topics in the re-imagining of post-pandemic worlds for young people – and raise questions about curricular and social impacts that new productions might consider.  It will be led by Dr. Martin Heaney (University of East London), with Nigel Townsend (Executive Producer, Theatre of Debate) and Patrick Towell (Innovation Director, The Audience Agency).

Developing ideas that will be published in a forthcoming chapter for a Routledge Companion to Young People’s Theatre, Dr. Martin Heaney will open the discussion with a case study analysis of Edward Bond who has recently written an introduction to a collection of plays exploring the idea of ‘crisis’ in the context of the Covid pandemic, (Theatre of Crisis 2020). Bond’s explicitly links the Covid-19 pandemic to a much wider ‘mega-crisis’, the product of a failed and unjust political and economic order. This reflection will focus on Bond’s dramaturgy and the impact of his representation of histories of twentieth-century violence in plays for young people. His work will be analysed in relation to critiques of post-modernism in theatre studies, including Paula Botham’s analysis of a new ‘cultural appetite for historicity’ (2017) and a need for re-engagement with politics, agency and historical narrative. The discussion will address, in parallel, the idea of genealogies of dramaturgical practice and how these are passed on between practitioners.     

Nigel Townsend will discuss his experience of developing theatre through the pandemic and his new production inspired by the story behind the portrait of Three Queens from Mysore by Irish painter Thomas Hickey in 1805, which drew attention to the role of female Indian aristocrats in promoting early smallpox vaccination and was a pivotal development in modern vaccination strategies. (For more information on the work of Theatre of Debate, please go to )

Patrick Towell will offer a producer’s perspective on contemporary practice, exploring ideas of social impact and sustainability and identifying models of practice that can support the strategic development of theatre-makers working with young people.

For more information and a link to the meeting, please email:

Martin Heaney

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