Dr Richard Allen joined Wimbledon College of Arts in June 2019 and has played an important role in developing two of our newest courses, BA Acting and Performance and BA Contemporary Theatre and Performance, at a pivotal time for the College.
Now Course Leader for BA Contemporary Theatre and Performance, Richard is also a Wimbledon alumnus, having studied MA Theatre: Visual Language of Performance here at the college in 2007 following his undergraduate studies at University of Exeter.
After Wimbledon, he went on to complete his PhD in Performance: Theatre Machines: A practice-based enquiry into the performance of objects at Aberystwyth University in 2014.
Here we profile his own performance work, and revisit our interview with him which took place when he joined us last year.
As well as his research and teaching, Richard has a lifelong involvement in the performing arts as an actor, or devising and making installations, ‘happenings’, and site-based work. As Richard puts it “my work investigates the agency and theatricality of objects through the making of sound installations, performances, films, essays and publications. I make sound and visual works with theatrical props, stage hardware, novelty items, instruments, machines, apparatuses and artefacts that play with how narratives and animations are formed between objects, sounds and spectators.”
Richard’s work has also been presented at the National Review of Live Art (Glasgow), Mayfest (Bristol), Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff), and Oriel Moystn (Llandudno).
Crediting his study at Wimbledon for shaping his unique career path, Richard says, “The wonderful year I spent here as a student was transformational for my practice and my career.”
“Much of what I learned and developed during my time at Wimbledon has shaped my career as a theatre maker and I can’t wait to bring this back to the new courses and community at the college. I am very excited to be back at Wimbledon.”
But what is it that draws him back at this time?
“I was attracted to the bold and radical new vision for the courses at Wimbledon to become a centre of excellence for performance.”
“The integration of well-established and internationally recognised theatre and performance design courses with new acting and theatre and performance making is incredibly exciting and mirrors my approach to my own research and practice.”
And whilst Richard is quite at home in a theatre, his work is often to be found in disused quarries, seaside diners, ‘at sea’ itself or even in the phone box opposite London College of Communication.
“Theatre and performance has the inescapable seduction of liveness, of being together with others in the same place at the same time, in either physical or virtual space,” says Richard,
“Theatre and performance, like it always has, is expanding the reach for how it engages and immerses audiences in this liveness, consuming and appropriating new technologies and approaches into its unique form of world making. It’s just such an incredibly exciting time to be studying and forming a new practice as a student.”
Read on to find out more about some of Richard Allen's own work.
House was a sequence of images constructed by a group of performers and a large piles of objects and wall units. The images were built from rules and structures devised by the performers to construct and arrange domestic rooms, scenarios and events. It was devised as part of a residency with Aberystwyth based artist collective Showroom.
Garage Band is a piece of music theatre set in a suburban garage. As Richard puts it “part memory play, part DIY concert, all for an audience on a driveway.”
Inspired by Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder (2004), the narrative follows the attempts of a ‘singer’ to reconnect with his memory following a mysterious accident that involved something heavy falling from the sky.
With the substantial payout from the corporation responsible for the accident, he sets about reforming his old band and begins a search for a garage that feels like that from his teenage years. His memory is sketchy, but he recalls tiny details of objects and events that accompanied that time of his life and sets about reconstructing them. He even employs two actors to take on the roles of the ‘drummer’ and the ‘bass player.’
The Killers, not the band, but Richard’s take on the Ernest Hemingway short story set in and around a diner.
This live binaural sound work was recently performed in The Regent seaside diner in Weston-super-Mare. Seated in the diner, the audience wear headphones and watch as the audio is constructed; eavesdropping on conversations; tracking the flight of a wayward fly; hearing in real time the countdown to an assassination.
The Killers is a quiet speculation on how the vinyl booths, coffee counters and cherry pie of British diners carry approximations of American culture, and what happens when you get off the train at the seaside and reach the end of the line.