Dr James Rowson

Senior Research Officer
East 15 Acting School
Dr James Rowson



I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at East 15 Acting School, University of Essex. In January 2021 I joined the team of researchers led by Holly Maples on the ESRC funded project Freelancers in the Dark, a study that explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freelance theatre workers in the United Kingdom. My work on the project analyses the lived experience of theatre freelancers to show how their careers and practice have been shaped by the health measures taken across the country since March 2020. My research examines how the COVID-19 crisis has foregrounded and condensed pre-existing inequalities in the UK theatre industry, as well as re-conceptualising freelance theatre workers’ relationships with cultural institutions and employers. I have recently been conducting a series of focus group interviews and creative micro commissions with theatre-makers around the UK to offer insight into the regional impact of the pandemic on localised theatre ecologies. I received my PhD from the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London. My primary research investigates new theatre writing in Russia since 2000, in the context of the political, social and cultural background of the Putin era. Drawing on new material and interviews not readily available to an English-speaking readership, I explore how theatre and performance has provided one of the most urgent and exciting artistic responses to the increasing authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s presidency. I contend that a collection of innovative theatre artists resist and provocatively subvert established, normative discourses by articulating the experiences of marginalized citizens who have been excluded from Putin’s state-building strategies. In doing so, they frame dissent against the Putin regime as an ardent rejection of official state-sanctioned rhetoric, providing an important locus for alternative political debate and the creation of a vital oppositional public sphere in twenty-first century Russia. In 2021 I was a visiting lecture at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. I have previous taught at Brunel University London and Royal Holloway, University of London. In addition, I am an editorial assistant for Contemporary Theatre Review.


Journal articles (3)

Rowson, J., (2021). ‘He did not go back to the army’: war, patriotism and desertion in Pavel Pryazhko’s The Soldier. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 1-22

Rowson, J., (2020). Documentary and Dissent: Performing Protest in Teatr.doc’s The Bolotnaya Square Case. Contemporary Theatre Review. 30 (1), 91-106

Rowson, J., (2018). Justice for Magnitsky: Staging the material document in Elena Gremina’s One Hour Eighteen Minutes. Journal of Arts Writing by Students. 4 (2), 135-146

Book chapters (1)

Maples, H. and Rowson, J., (2021). Theatres in the Dark: COVID-19s Impact on Digital Performance, Advocacy, and the Online Public Sphere in the UK Theatre Industry. In: Theatre and Performance During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Editors: Krpič, T., . The Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia (DGKTS), The Festival Borštnikovo Srečanje (SNG Maribor) and the Faculty of Social Sciences Publishing House (Ljubljana University)

Other (4)

Rowson, J. and Harris, L., (2021).Nearly a year on, UK theatre freelancers are still in the dark. Exeunt Magazine

Rowson, J., (2019).Elena Gremina and Mikhail Ugarov: Playwrights and Founders of the Daring Teatr.doc. Contemporary Theatre Review. 29 (1), 108-110

Rowson, J., (2017).Natalya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads at the Royal Court: Russian and Ukrainian Drama in The UK. The Theatre Times

Rowson, J., (2016).Book Review: Bakhtin and Theatre: Dialogues with Stanislavsky, Meyerhold and Grotowski. Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts. 10 (2), 105-109



Loughton Campus