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Name: Richard O'Brien

PhD: English Literature/Creative Writing

Thesis Title: Shakespeare and Contemporary Verse Drama


Thesis Description:

I'm investigating the influence of Shakespeare on the development of verse drama in Britain up to the present day. I'm particularly interested in how dramatists using this form have dealt with the problem of working in the shadow of the world's most famous writer, and in how comparison to Shakespeare has, fairly or unfairly, affected the way more recent verse plays have been received by critics and audiences. The creative aspect of my thesis seeks to explore what is unique, fresh and viable about the dormant form of verse drama, and to test practically the possibilities it offers for engaging theatre audiences today.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Professor Ewan Fernie (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)

Dr Luke Kennard (University of Birmingham)


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • your own devices - Poetry pamphlet, tall-lighthouse press (2009)
  • The Salt Book of Younger Poets - contributed three poems (2011)
  • The Best British Poetry 2013 - contributed one poem.
  • The Emmores - Poetry pamphlet, The Emma Press (2014)
  • A Bloody Mess - Poetry pamphlet, Valley Press/Ink Lines (2014)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year: 2014/5


Free for All - A CDF-funded tour of a modern verse play

In 2015 I applied as the lead applicant to the M3C Cohort Development Fund, to put together a touring production of a modern verse play, Free for All, arising out of my dissertation research. To date the project has involved around 15 students from M3C universities in the cast and creative team, and three further students from M3C universities as publicity liaisons. After a rehearsal period at the University of Birmingham's Shakespeare Institute, Free for All ran for 2 weeks at theSpace@Surgeons' Hall during August 2015 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it received positive coverage from Broadway Baby and reached c.200 audience members over the course of its 10-date run. In January 2016, the production is touring venues across the three cities - Nottingham Contemporary, Leicester's Hansom Hall, and mac birmingham. The Nottingham and Leicester dates were organised in conjunction with the Contemporary and Leicester City Council as M3C partner sites, and will each be preceded by a workshop earlier in the day run by two M3C university students taking participants through the history of verse drama and the possibilities it offers for creative performance. The production will be previewed by British Theatre Guide and has already generated interest on social media channels for culture within the respective cities. The whole project has allowed participants to develop an awareness of how research can be converted into practice, with an eye to public engagement, and data on audience responses to the performance will be collated through surveys distributed at the three Midlands dates. It has also offered the chance to learn on-the-job skills in project management, media engagement and working with partner venues to ensure maximum outreach.


Other Research Interests:

  • Fictional depictions of Shakespeare and especially Shakespeare's contemporaries, with a focus on Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe.
  • Incidental uses of Shakespeare and literary reference in general in popular music and pop culture
  • Depictions of class in post-war British literature and music
  • Contemporary poetry: I keep a close-reading blog at


Social Media Presence:

  • @notrockyhorror on Twitter

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