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Dr Matt Hargrave

Assistant Professor

Department: Arts

 Matt Hargrave

Matt joined the Department in 2004 after having worked as a writer and theatre practitioner with many leading theatres and cultural providers including: Northern Stage, New Writing North, Mind the Gap, Live Theatre, and Arts Council England.   Matt’s teaching and research interests include theatre and disability; performance and mental health; and Stand-up comedy.

I studied Politics and Modern History at Manchester University, which was good, but less fun than making things up; so I enrolled on an MA in Contemporary Performing Arts at Bretton Hall College.  Here I discovered that performance was an inexhaustible subject, and it could involve anyone, regardless of age, background or training: it could be vehemently political, or frivolous, or both, simultaneously.  I developed a strong interest in the social application of theatre, particularly through the work of Augusto Boal; and the UK based company, Mind the Gap; and I continued to work as a theatre practitioner until taking up the full-time post at Northumbria.

In 2006 I began a doctoral study of theatre involving learning disabled artists, supported by the AHRC. The companies I collaborated with were frustrated by the lack of critical engagement in their work:  analysis that did exist tended to stress the social, or even curative, benefits of theatre. My research tried to fill this gap, to think about intellectual impairment as a set of performance qualities and as a contribution to theatre.  I considered the work of learning disabled artists in the same way that more mainstream theatre practice is evaluated: as a craft and an artform. Theatres of Learning Disability, the book that resulted from this research, won the Theatre and Performance Research Association’s 2016 Early Career Research Award.

More recently I have become interested in Stand-up comedy, particularly its relationship to mental health. I am currently exploring how comedians talk about mental illness and how comedy has the potential to disrupt normative assumptions about wellbeing.




Campus Address

Lipman 007
Northumbria University
Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Stage persona, stand-up comedy and mental health: 'Putting yourself out there', Hargrave, M. 7 Feb 2020, In: Persona Studies
  • Dance with a Stranger: Torque Show’s Intimacy (2014) and the Experience of Vulnerability in Performance and Spectatorship, Hargrave, M. Dec 2017, Risk, Participation, and Performance Practice, Springer
  • Theatres of learning disability: Good, bad, or plain ugly?, Hargrave, M. 1 Jan 2015
  • A proper actor? The politics of training for learning disabled actors, Gee, E., Hargrave, M. 2011, In: Theatre, Dance and Performance Training
  • Side effects: an analysis of Mind the Gap's Boo and the reception of theatre involving learning disabled actors, Hargrave, M. 2010, In: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
  • Pure products go crazy, Hargrave, M. Feb 2009, In: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
  • Good, bad or just plain ugly? Changing perceptions of the learning disabled actor, Hargrave, M. 2007, Planting trees of drama with global vision in local knowledge: IDEA 2007 dialogues, Hong Kong, IDEA Publications

Johanne Hauge Neurodivergent performance practice: overwhelm, ambiguity and other neurodivergent logics as critical framework Start Date: 01/10/2021

  • Drama PhD September 27 2004
  • Other Courses MA September 01 1995
  • Politics BA (Hons) September 01 1989
  • Not Specified A Level September 01 1987

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