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Communications, Drama and Film

Photo of Professor Adrian Curtin

Professor Adrian Curtin

Associate Professor


01392 724582


I am a theatre scholar and educator. I am Head of Subject for Drama in the Department of Communications, Drama and Film.

My main research areas are Western drama and theatre associated with modernism and its legacy, the use of sound and music in experimental theatre, and connections between Western classical music and theatre.  

My first book, Avant-Garde Theatre Sound: Staging Sonic Modernity (Palgrave, 2014), concerns sonic experimentation by avant-garde theatre artists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and shows how artists engaged with the sonic conditions of modernity through innovation in dramatic form, characterisation, language, staging, technology, and performance style. This book was supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant. I won the 2015 Early Career Research Prize, awarded by the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), for this book.

My second book, Death in Modern Theatre: Stages of Mortality, approaches modern theatre from a different angle, focusing on the ways in which dramatists and theatre-makers have explored historically informed ideas about death and dying in their work. It examines the opportunities theatre gives us to reflect on the end of life in a compelling and socially meaningful fashion. A reviewer in Modern Drama nominated it as 'the best monograph on drama and theatre studies [they had] read in at least five years'.

I am co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism in Contemporary Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2023). This collection highlights modernism as an impulse that can be carried forward to the present, re-embodied and re-encountered in theatrical performance. A diverse set of contributions from scholars and theatre practitioners examines the legacy of modernism on the world stage in acts of remembrance, restaging, transmission, and slippage.

I was principal investigator of the AHRC research network Representing 'Classical Music' in the Twenty-First Century from 2019 to 2021. This network explored contemporary artistic and media representation of classical music as well as demographic representation in the classical music industry. I have co-edited a special collection of the Open Library of Humanities on this topic. 

In 2022 I was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to work on a research project and a programme of public engagement about theatrically oriented orchestral performance. In this year-long fellowship (which commenced in January 2023), I examined music-making that challenges conventional understanding of the orchestra, of musicians as performers, of borders between art forms, and of orchestral repertoire. A project blog is available here. I am under contract with Manchester University Press for a monograph based on this research.


Twitter: @adriancurt

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My research interests include:

  • modernist and avant-garde theatre from the late nineteenth century onward
  • theatre sound, theatre music, and aurality in theatre
  • examination of mortality in modern and contemporary drama and theatre
  • the representation of Western classical music in drama and theatre
  • theatrical or experimental approaches to performing classical music
  • theatre and adaptation
  • devised theatre

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students about any of these topics or related topics.

Research through practice

I collaborated with The Llanarth Group, Gaitkrash, and Theatre P'yut on a co-created piece of theatre entitled playing 'the maids' -- a montage of text (primarily English-language, with some Mandarin, Korean, and Irish), psychophysical scores, choreography, and sound compositions.

playing ‘the maids’ previewed at the Granary Theatre in Cork in June 2014 as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. It premiered at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, in February 2015 before touring other venues in Wales. This tour was funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

For more information see this press releasethis article in Exeunt, this essay in Wales Arts Review, and this review in British Theatre Guide.

I continue to collaborate with Gaitkrash on the creation of new theatrical work.

Research collaborations

2022-2023  Part of the research group 'The Sound of Theatre: Musical and Acoustemological Approaches to Contemporary Performance Practice in an International Context' (led by David Roesner), Center for Advanced Studies, LMU Munich

2019-2021 'Representing Classical Music in the Twenty-First Century'. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students on any subject relevant to my research expertise. If you are interested in working with me, please send a 500-word outline of your proposed research topic, along with a CV.

Research students

Current Students

  • Mariko North, The Virtuosity of Stillness: An Investigation into the Application of Embodied Meditative Practices in Western Classical Pianistic Performance Practice (co-supervisor)
  • Howard Gayton, The Esoteric Fool: A Practice-based Pedagogical Approach to Modern Fooling (second supervisor)
  • Georgia Achilleopoulou, Autobiography and Vocal Performance in Musical Theatre (second supervisor)

Graduated Students

  • Sophia Edlund, Voicing ThelxisKulning, Lulling, and Siren Song as Practices of Vocal Attraction (co-supervisor, 2023)
  • Ohood S. Al-Aqeel, Female Playwrights in Saudi Arabia (second supervisor, 2022)
  • Janine Diamond, Turning (in)to the Triple Threat: An Auto/Ethnographic Journey through Pedagogy, Discourse, Documentation and Embodied Experience in ArtsEd's Musical Theatre Training Process (co-supervisor, 2021)
  • Jonathan Venn, Madness, Resistance, and Representation in Contemporary British and Irish Theatre (second supervisor, 2016)
  • Kate Holmes, Aerial Stars: Femininity, Celebrity & Glamour in the Representations of Female Aerialists in the UK & USA in the 1920s and early 1930s (second supervisor, 2016)
  • Amanda Phipps, Learning through Performance: Theatre, Education and the First World War at the Beginning of the Centenary Moment (second supervisor, 2016)

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 |


  • Curtin A. (2024) Solo, Concerto, and Current Approaches to Presenting Classical Music, Following the Score: The Ravel Trilogy, Intellect, 170-185.
  • Curtin A, Purkayastha P, yamomo M. (2024) Methodologies Dialogue: Archives and Embodiments, The Cambridge Guide to Mixed Methods Research for Theatre and Performance Studies, Cambridge University Press, 215-232.


  • Curtin A. (2023) The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism in Contemporary Theatre, Edinburgh University Press.





  • Curtin A. (2017) The Neo-Futurists(') Take on Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre, Palgrave.
  • Curtin A. (2017) The Absurdity of Denial: Staging the American Way of Death, New Theatre Quarterly, volume 33, no. 2, pages 125-142.
  • Curtin A. (2017) Recomposing Genet: Analysing the Musicality of 'playing the maids', Contemporary Theatre Review, volume 27, no. 2, pages 177-194, DOI:10.1080/10486801.2017.1298097.


  • Versari ME, Doak C, Evans A, Bellow J, Curtin A. (2016) Futurism, Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor & Francis, DOI:10.4324/9781135000356-remo21-1.
  • Curtin A. (2016) Performance, Studies in Theatre and Performance, DOI:10.1080/14682761.2016.1207401.
  • Curtin A, Roesner D. (2016) Sounds Good, Theatre and Performance Design, volume 2, pages 184-187, DOI:10.1080/23322551.2016.1226071.
  • Curtin A. (2016) Modern Drama: A Very Short Introduction, Studies in Theatre and Performance.
  • Curtin A. (2016) "Designing Sound for Shakespeare: Connecting Past and Present", Designers' Shakespeare, Routledge.


  • Curtin A. (2015) Howard Barker's Theatre: Wrestling with Catastrophe, Studies in Theatre and Performance, volume 35, no. 3, pages 260-262.
  • Curtin A. (2015) Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman, Studies in Theatre and Performance, DOI:10.1080/14682761.2015.1039785.
  • Curtin A. (2015) Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Pinter, Theatre Research International, volume 40, no. 1, pages 124-125.



  • Curtin A. (2013) "Vibration, Percussion and Primitivism in Avant-Garde Performance", Vibratory Modernism, Palgrave, 227-247.
  • Curtin A. (2013) "Recalling the Theatre Phone", Theatre, Performance and Analogue Technologies: Historical Interfaces and Intermedialities, Palgrave, 214-231.


  • Curtin A. (2012) "Noises On: Sights and Sites of Sound in Apollinaire's The Breasts of Tiresias", Theatre Noise: The Sound of Performance, Cambridge Scholars, 124-138.


  • Curtin A. (2011) "Engaging Death, Drama, the Classroom, and Real Life", Pedagogy, volume 11, no. 1, pages 206-210.


  • Curtin A. (2010) Sound: A Reader in Theatre Practice, Theatre Journal, volume 62, no. 4, pages 706-707.
  • Curtin A. (2010) "Defining and Reconstructing Theatre Sound", Theatre and Performance Design: A Reader in Scenography, Palgrave, 218-222.
  • Curtin A. (2010) "Cruel Vibrations: Sounding Out Antonin Artaud's Production of Les Cenci", Theatre Research International, volume 35, no. 3, pages 250-262.


  • Curtin A. (2009) "Dumb Reading: The Noise of the Mute in Jonson's Epicene", Comparative Drama, volume 43, no. 1, pages 45-62.
  • Curtin A. (2009) "Alternative Vocalities: Listening Awry to Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King", Mosaic: a journal for the interdisciplinary study of literature, volume 42, no. 2, pages 101-118.
  • Curtin A. (2009) "Hearing Joyce Speak: The Phonograph Recordings of 'Aeolus' and 'Anna Livia Plurabelle' as Audiotexts", James Joyce Quarterly, volume 46, no. 2, pages 269-284.


  • Curtin A. (2008) The Senses in Performance, Theatre Journal, volume 60, no. 2, pages 317-318.


  • Curtin A. (2007) Theatre of Catastrophe: New Essays on Howard Barker, volume 59, no. 1, pages 146-147.


  • Curtin A. (2006) Death, The One and the Art of Theatre, Theatre Journal, volume 58, no. 1, pages 166-177.


  • Curtin A, Shrayer M. (2005) "Netting the Butterfly Man: The Significance of Vladimir Nabokov in W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants", Religion and the Arts, volume 9, no. 3, pages 258-283.

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External impact and engagement

Recent public engagement (select)  
  • 'The Experimental Orchesta' -- an online symposium I organised about new ways of presenting concerts and new consitiutions of the orchestra and orchestral music, featuring presentations from scholars and practitioners (December 2023)
  • Orchestral Theatre’ podcast (10 episodes, featuring edited interviews conducted for research), published in 2023
  • Representing “Classical Music” in the Twenty-First Century' (AHRC research network, 2019–2021) [3 symposia (held at the University of Exeter, the Royal College of Music, & online; 28 participants (scholars and professionals from the classical music industry, including representatives from Gramophone Magazine, Chineke!, Open Up Music, UK Music, Incorporated Society of Musicians, HERA, Illuminate Women’s Music, & the Institute for Composer Diversity); 37 blog posts; 11 peer-reviewed articles for a special collection of the Open Library of Humanities; 1 new dramatic script and public reading (Black Mozart, White Chevalier, by Dzifa Benson)]

Contribution to discipline

  • I am an editorial board member of Theatre & Performance Design and Music Research Annual and a contributing editor of New Theatre Quarterly
  • I was the book review editor for Studies in Theatre and Performance from 2015-2018.
  • I have served as peer reviewer for publishers and journals such as Routledge, Palgrave, Oxford University Press, White Rose University Press, Comparative DramaJournal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Modernism/ModernityTheatre & Performance Design, and Sound Studies.

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I work to advance my students’ intellectual, creative, and personal development by offering provocations, listening to what is said and not said, and creating a relaxed, yet focused, learning environment. I design modules that relate to my research interests and specialisms. In 2017 I was nominated for a University of Exeter Students' Guild award for research-inspired teaching. I was Director of Education for the Drama Department from 2018 to 2020. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a mentor and assesor for the ASPIRE Professional Recognition Pathway, the University of Exeter's experiential route to fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE).

Modules taught

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I joined the University of Exeter in 2012, having previously worked at the University of Lincoln. I did my doctoral training at Northwestern University, where I was a Presidential Fellow, and completed the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama programme in 2011. I have also studied at Boston College and University College Cork. I am originally from Cork, a city full of hills, and now live in another city full of hills.

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