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Dr Claire Warden

Job: Reader in Drama

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Visual and Performing Arts

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0) 116 207 8871




Personal profile

Claire joined the School of Arts in September 2015, having previously been a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and the University of Edinburgh, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln. Her research focuses on cross-disciplinary modernism, British and Continental European theatre, performance theory and contemporary performance aesthetics, particularly in relation to sport and entertainment. She is the author of ‘British Avant-Garde Theatre’ (Palgrave MacMillan 2012), ‘Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction’ (Edinburgh UP 2015) and ‘Migrating Modernist Performance: British theatrical travels through Russia (Palgrave MacMillan 2016), as well as multiple journals articles and book chapters. She is associate editor of Wiley-Blackwell’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Modernist Literature’ (2018) and, proving she is nothing if not diverse, is also co-editor of ‘Performance and Professional Wrestling’ (Routledge 2017).

For further up-to-date information about her research see and @cs_warden

Research group affiliations

  • Performance Research Group
  • International Centre for Sports History and Culture

Publications and outputs 

  • Performance
    Performance Warden, Claire This chapter explores the fraught concept of 'performance' as an everyday action and as an on stage event. It aims to unpack the complexities of the term for student readers.
  • 'Wide margins': Finding Performance in the Border and Borders in Performance
    'Wide margins': Finding Performance in the Border and Borders in Performance Warden, Claire
  • Performance and Professional Wrestling
    Performance and Professional Wrestling Warden, Claire; Chow, Broderick; Laine, Eero Performance and Professional Wrestling is the first edited volume to consider professional wrestling explicitly from the vantage point of theatre and performance studies. Moving beyond simply noting its performative qualities or reading it via other performance genres, this collection of essays offers a complete critical reassessment of the popular sport.
  • Migrating Modernist Performance: British Theatrical Travels through Russia
    Migrating Modernist Performance: British Theatrical Travels through Russia Warden, Claire Exploring the experiences of early to mid-twentieth century British theatre-makers in Russia, this book imagines how these travellers interpreted Russian realism, symbolism, constructivism, agitprop, pageantry, dance or cinema. With some searching for an alternative to the corporate West End, some for experimental techniques and others still for methods that might politically inspire their audiences, did these journeys make any differences to their practice? And how did distinctly Russian techniques affect British theatre history? Migrating Modernist Performance seeks to answer these questions, reimagining the experiences and creative output of a range of, often under-researched, practitioners. What emerges is a dynamic collection of performances that bridge geographical, aesthetic, chronological and political divides.
  • John Piper's Modernist Scenography
    John Piper's Modernist Scenography Warden, Claire As one of the pre-eminent British painters of the twentieth century, John Piper secured his legacy with his depictions of swirling seas, grand country houses, and secluded churches. However his contribution to the theatre is less well known. This paper aims to address this lacuna, focusing on his scenographic contribution to two modernist performances: Stephen Spender’s Trial of a Judge (1938) and Edith Sitwell’s Façade (1942). I aim to present Piper as a vital force in a British avant-garde theatre scene and to reimagine his canon of work as inherently theatrical. This theatrical element unites his diverse oeuvre, from his most abstract geometric collages to his most quintessentially English landscapes. This paper resurrects two often overlooked performances, and sheds new light on the cross-disciplinary nature of British modernist art and the importance of theatrical motifs for a thorough understanding of Piper’s work. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Moscow, St Petersburg, London: Hubert Griffith and the search for a Russian truth
    Moscow, St Petersburg, London: Hubert Griffith and the search for a Russian truth Warden, Claire In lieu of an abstract: Hubert Griffith’s play Red Sunday premiered at the Arts Theatre, London in June 1929 under the direction of Russian émigré Theodor Komisarjevsky. Subsequently, Griffith submitted the play to the Lord Chamberlain with the express aim of performing it on the West End stage. Lord Cromer rejected it, responding to vocal condemnation of the play from mainstream media—The Times criticized Red Sunday in an editorial entitled “A Dramatic Indiscretion”—and Buckingham Palace, from where the King, under pressure from exiled Russian royalists, requested it not be granted a license. The general consensus claimed that Red Sunday caused unwarranted “pain to Russians in London.” This was primarily due to its focus on real people, particularly the deceased Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and its presentation of such a dramatic, bloody, and recent period of Russian history as “entertainment.” The Times’ editorial condemned Red Sunday as unnecessarily cruel: Though he [the dramatist in a general sense] argues that an artist is free to choose his material where he pleases, he might well remember that a man of honour [sic] and independence is no betrayer of his right to speak freely, and even endorses that right, when he avoids a subject that must increase the suffering of those who have already suffered enough. The Times accused Griffith of neglecting his position as self-regulator of his own work. Ignoring calls to grant it a license, including “howls of protest from [George Bernard] Shaw among others,” the censor deemed Red Sunday unsuitable for the mainstream stage. In this regard, it can be read as part of a diverse canon of modernist work rejected by the Censor, from Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts to Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Red Sunday clearly incensed the authorities. But what was it about this play that caused such outrage? Why was a play, whose initial Komisarjevsky-directed performance John Gielgud (who played the character of Bronstein/Trotsky) praised as a celebration of “continuous life and movement on the stage,” so heartedly rejected from the West End? Griffith provided an initial answer to this question by responding to The Times’ editorial in the letters section of the same newspaper: I treated his [the Tsar’s] domestic character with the very utmost reverence and sympathy of which I was capable. But that, as his political actions affected the whole world, I could not (and still cannot) conceive but that these are legitimate matters for the freest possible public discussion. He counteracted the claims that he had presented an unfair account of the Tsar, distinguishing between the private tragedy of a fallen leader and his far less agreeable politics. In a sense, counteracting The Times’ claims, Griffith certainly did self-censor to an extent and committed to presenting a somewhat more sympathetic figure than his leftist convictions might naturally have occasioned. It did not seem to matter; the play was censored regardless. Furthermore Griffith provocatively attacked the Censor for preventing general access to a play that enabled audience members to understand important and far-reaching world events. Proverbially biting his thumb at the Lord Chamberlain, The Times, and Buckingham Palace, Griffith published the play with “Banned by the Lord Chamberlain” emblazoned on the front cover and proceeded to write a scathing indictment of Cromer’s decision and the restrictions of censorship. He included this incendiary manifesto as a preface. Griffith wrote it as a detached observer, authoring it from the perspective of “a poor native of the South-Pacific island of Ping-Pang-Bong.” Unfortunately this infuses the preface with an unnecessary and troubling colonial under-narrative. Nevertheless it remains one of the most damning early twentieth-century denunciations of theatrical censorship. The “poor native” apparently watched Red Sunday while visiting London on a short break away from his “dancing-girls…dancing in the background, in arabesques that would have enchanted Gauguin.” The preface addresses the dual concerns of the Censor: that these events were simply too contemporaneous and painful to provide material for theater and that the play should not have presented the Tsar on the stage. The author rejects both considerations. Regarding the first, he maintains that theater should be a space where factually accurate narratives “recent or...
  • Modernism and European drama/theatre
    Modernism and European drama/theatre Warden, Claire This chapter explores the rich history of early twentieth-century performance in Europe, situating it within global re-conceptions of modernism.
  • Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction
    Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction Warden, Claire This textbook introduces the reader to modernist avant-garde theatre. It clearly explains the key terms as well as the major movements, including Expressionism, Dadaism, Futurism, Workers’ theatres, Constructivism and the Living Newspaper, and Mass Performance, using a case study approach. It introduces the important traditions and conventions of the modernist avant-garde, reassesses theatrical techniques, and provides examples of plays and performances from across Europe and America. There are also chapters on The Modernist Body and on Interdisciplinary Performance. The book approaches the modernist avant-garde both as an area of academic study and as potential raw material for contemporary performance.
  • The democratic stage? The relationship between the actor and the audience in professional wrestling
    The democratic stage? The relationship between the actor and the audience in professional wrestling Warden, Claire Using two major examples (2002 Wrestlemania XVII main event between The Rock and Hulk Hogan, and the 2004 Wrestlemania XX match up of Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg) this paper will argue that the wrestling arena is one of the most democratic and, indeed, potentially subversive forms of popular theatre. Both these events were directly and immediately influenced by their audiences, the performance narrative changing as the audience members interacted with the matches. Indeed, despite the obvious commodification of professional wrestling and its interpellation into capitalist economic systems, it presents an arena of exciting actor-audience interaction rarely seen on the theatrical stage. Concluding with a brief examination of the growth in theatrical-style starred rating from fans such as Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller, this paper will suggest that professional wrestling remains one of the most exciting twenty-first century examples of performance-based democracy.
  • We are here to Salute the Red Army: Basil Dean and his Russian adventures
    We are here to Salute the Red Army: Basil Dean and his Russian adventures Warden, Claire In 1943, Britain had been at war with Nazi Germany for over three years. The USSR had become a rather unlikely British ally in 1941, and after two years of brutal conflict had begun to gain an advantage against German troops, who were demoralized by the fierce Russian winter and a lack of supplies. With this as a backdrop, on 21 February 1943, more than two thousand participants performed a large-scale pageant called Salute to the Red Army at the Royal Albert Hall in London to commemorate Red Army Day and celebrate the Soviet–British alliance against Nazi aggression. British cities such as Cardiff, Manchester, and Bristol also honored Britain's Russian allies with marches, rallies, and other celebrations. The pageant was London's contribution to these nationwide festivities. Although the audience at the Royal Albert Hall event comprised selected and invited guests, enormous crowds attended other regional events, as did prominent military dignitaries, members of local councils, local members of Parliament, and Russian military guests. This multicity event is one demonstration of how the extremes of war produce unlikely bedfellows.

To see a full list of Dr Warden's outputs please click here.

Research interests/expertise

  • Modernist performance
  • Drama and the avant-garde
  • British theatre history
  • Interdisciplinary modernism
  • The performing body
  • Twentieth- and twenty-first century performance

Areas of teaching

  • Theatre history
  • Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Performance
  • Performance training
  • Critical Theory


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • PhD ‘Tradition, Innovation and Politics: the stagework of Ewan MacColl and Theatre Workshop’ (University of Edinburgh)
  • MSc Writing and Cultural Politics (University of Edinburgh)
  • BA English Literature (1st class honours) (Aberystwyth University)

Courses taught

  • DRAM 1000 Acting, Scripting, Directing
  • DRAM 1001 A Contextual Introduction to Performance
  • DRAM 3000 Drama Research Project
  • DRAM 2000 Drama and Theory

Honours and awards

Anthony Denning Award Winner, Society for Theatre Research (2014)

Externally funded research grants information

  • British Academy Small Grant (2015)
  • Popular Culture Association Travel Grant (2015)
  • Marc Fitch Fund Research Grant (2014)
  • Amiel and Melburn Trust Funding Award (2014)
  • University of Edinburgh PhD Scholarship (2004-7)

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