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Relationship between animals and performance to be studied in £250k research project

The relationship between performance and animals is to be explored by a theatre academic from the University of Surrey. Photo: Shutterstock The relationship between performance and animals is to be explored by a theatre academic from the University of Surrey. Photo: Shutterstock
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The relationship between performance and animals is to be explored by a theatre academic from the University of Surrey, who has been awarded a £250,000 grant to carry out research in the area.

Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, who is head of the university’s theatre and dance department and teaches at Guildford School of Acting, will work with performance makers Fevered Sleep and US company Every House Has a Door on a project investigating how performance contributes to our understanding of animals.

She said she hopes the research will “contribute to positive ethical change surrounding attitudes and behaviour towards animals and show how the performing arts operate as forms of thinking in their own right”.

Cull Ó Maoilearca has been given £250,000 of funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to create two case studies, one with each of the companies.

Working alongside the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine, she will collaborate with Fevered Sleep on a new version of its 2017 show Sheep Pig Goat, in which audiences watch performers engage in improvised encounters with sheep, pigs and goats.

The second part will be a new project with Every House Has a Door, described as a “devised performance on interspecies communication”, on which Ó Maoilearca will work with primary school children. It will culminate in a public event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

Cull Ó Maoilearca added: “I am honoured to be awarded this AHRC research grant that will enable me to work with fantastic partners and participate in the lively debate about human perceptions of animals.”

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