Research at Central takes different forms across the broad fields of drama, theatre and performance.
Academic staff publish books and articles and undertake practice-based research. A number explore developments in theatre through their own practice in public and professional contexts, usually working with professional companies, venues and other organisations. Central staff members are involved in industry and professional organisations, including the International Federation for Theatre Research, the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians, Performance Studies International and the Theatre and Performance Research Association. Projects that explore theatre and performance practices have been undertaken with partners including Complicite, English National Opera, Graeae, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the National Theatre. Industry partners for technical and design exploration include d&b audiotechnik, White Light and Yamaha.
Theatre continues to change as a discipline. Innovations in performance concern the nature of acting, performance spaces and indeed artistic creation. Mainstream production is affected by developments in technology and the means by which entertainment is fashioned. Meanwhile, the British government encourages an ever-closer liaison between higher education institutions and the industries in which their students will work. Given its specialist staff, high-spec resources and extensive liaison with partners, Central is especially well placed to undertake research in this environment.
In the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008, 55% of Central’s submission was judged either world-leading or internationally excellent. Central is the highest-placed drama institution in the rankings of specialist single subject institutions.
In its report on Central’s submission, the RAE 2008 sub-panel for Drama, Dance and Performing Arts noted:
The sub-panel is struck by the emergence of a new kind of research institution in the performing arts, bridging the creative industries and the academy, and producing a range of outputs relating to performance practices, many through PaR [practice as research].
Students at Central undertake research through a variety of means that relate to their own areas of study. Central also has a busy Research Degrees programme, with 26 students studying for PhDs. Their study normally includes practice-based research components, and students share their work in an annual postgraduate conference and, separately, at an annual festival of experimental or exploratory practice outputs.