Michael Spencer

Course Leader, MA Performance Design and Practice

Central Saint Martins


Michael has been designing in the professional theatre for over 20 years - the range of his work incorporates community theatre, commercial touring, repertory theatre and opera.

In 1991 he became the first person in the UK to receive an MA in Theatre Design. During his time as Course Director of what is now BA Performance Design & Practice (formally BA Theatre Design) at Central Saint Martins, the course broadened its remit to reflect both expanding applications of the discipline and a changing student agenda. 

Michael’s own practice reflects this shift. Recent commissions include a site specific Attempts On Her Life (Crimp) at a disused Gas Utilities building in Colorado Springs and a play based on a Mathematics lecture, The Anatomy of Integers & Permutations performed recently at both Princeton and Berkeley Universities in the USA.

He has presented at two USITT conferences and was a UK representative at the 2009 OISTAT symposium in Moscow as well as presenting at recent conferences in Riga, Latvia (Prague Quadrennial), the V&A, London (Theatre & Performance Research Association) and in Prague, Czech Republic (Inter-Disciplinary.net). As a member of the executive committee of the Associated Courses in Theatre Design (Actd) Michael has been heavily involved in two recent Actd conferences and the UK schools exhibit for the last three PQ exhibitions. He has written articles for the ACTDs Sightline Magazine, SBTDs Blue Pages and BBC Vision magazine and has recently had a paper published in New Performance Languages, published by Inter-Disciplinary.net (Aut 2011).

Research interests

Interdisciplinary, site-specific/relevant, audience, performer, inter-active, theatre, performative, postdramatic, liveness, live art, narrative space, presence, authenticity, design.

Research statement

I am interested in the application of classic theatre design skills and approaches within different contexts. This expanded field includes devised performance within non-theatre sites and questioning the parameters of the role of the visual within the generation of performance. The idea of the designer as co-author is embraced. An interdisciplinary approach is implicit, looking at applying theatre and performance as a way of engaging with subjects such as number theory, which initially seems unrelated to creative practices. Alongside of these concerns is an interest in the parameters of what constitutes performance, and of the inter-section of performance, and the performative, with everyday life. 

Selected research outputs

  • p e r f o r m 2 4 1 1 1 5

    Spencer, Michael, Eight S1 & S2 students from the MA Performance Design & Practice (2015) p e r f o r m 2 4 1 1 1 5. [Performance]

  • Writing and performing mathematics as metaphor

    Granville, Andrew and Granville, Jennifer and Spencer, Michael (2015) Writing and performing mathematics as metaphor. In: Art in the Life of Mathematicians. American Mathematical Society, USA. ISBN ISBN-10: 1470419564 ISBN-13: 978-1470419561

  • Making Up

    Spencer, Michael (2014) Making Up. [Performance]

  • the other hamlet

    Spencer, Michael (2014) the other hamlet. [Performance]

  • Documentation AS Scenography

    Spencer, Michael (2013) Documentation AS Scenography. In: Performing Documents, 12-14 April 2013, Arnolfini, Bristol.

  • Exploding Contexts

    Spencer, Michael (2011) Exploding Contexts. In: Performance: Visual Aspects of Performance Practice, 11 - 13th November 2010, Prague, Czech Republic. (In Press)

  • MSI: the anatomy of integers and permutations

    Spencer, Michael and Granville, Jennifer and Granville, Andrew (2011) MSI: the anatomy of integers and permutations. [Performance]

  • Vindication

    Spencer, Michael (2009) Vindication. [Show/Exhibition]

  • Verification (5 decades)

    Spencer, Michael (2009) Verification (5 decades). [Performance]

  • 'Variation': 32 short performances

    Spencer, Michael (2008) 'Variation': 32 short performances. [Art/Design Item]