Dr David Overend

Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies


David Overend joined the University of Edinburgh in 2019 after three years at Royal Holloway, University of London, and five years at the University of the West of Scotland. He has also taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the University of Glasgow. As a director, David has worked for the National Theatre of Great Britain and several other theatres, and has toured internationally with award-winning productions. He is currently working with Edinburgh Futures Institute, developing a portfolio of new undergraduate courses and programmes.


Responsibilities & affiliations

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Research summary

My research interests are interdisciplinary but focus on contemporary theatre and performance, often at the intersection with cultural geography. This work is a development of my earlier research on site-specific art and community participation. It emerged from an AHRC-funded practice-as-research PhD at the University of Glasgow, which aimed to develop a ‘relational theatre practice’ in response to the Arches arts centre. Current research focusses on three distinct but overlapping themes: participation, mobility and wildness.

Plays with Participation: For two decades, I have collaborated as a director with the Scottish playwright-performer, Rob Drummond. Our theatre has usually involved audience participation, ranging from the use of a volunteer assistant in our magic show, Bullet Catch (the Arches, 2012), to the audience votes of The Majority (National Theatre, 2017). As well as the practice-based research of the productions themselves, I have written about our work with rehearsal audiences, the performance of referenda, and our experiences of touring theatre. I have recently edited Rob Drummond: Plays with Participation – a collection of our play scripts with a critical introduction for Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. I have also directed the work of other playwrights, such as Victoria Bianchi and Stuart Hepburn; and devised performance with companies including the Arches and Forest Fringe. This research has been funded by Creative Scotland and the numerous theatres and festivals that have programmed our work.

Making Routes: Since 2010, with Laura Bissell, I have co-convened makingroutes.org – a network and online resource for researchers and artists working with journeys in contemporary performance. We have created our own journeys: traveling to Rovaniemi in Finland by train; following Suffragettes through South Ayrshire; and creatively reimagining our daily commutes in the west of Scotland. I have also written about others’ mobile practice, including Lone Twin and Kieran Hurley. My Study Room Guide on Journeys in Live Art was written for the Live Art Development Agency, and has also been translated into Turkish for Performistanbul. We are currently compiling ten years of blog posts in a new book publication: Making Routes: Journeys in Performance 2010-2020. This research has been funded by Creative Scotland, South Ayrshire Council, and the Carnegie Trust.

Performing Wild Geographies: Since 2017, with Laura Bissell, Jamie Lorimer and Danielle Schreve, I have been leading a transdisciplinary project with geographers and artists, exploring performances of ‘wild geographies’ at rewilding sites in the UK. This work has mainly focussed on Knepp Wildland Project in West Sussex and Bamff Beaver Project in Perthshire. We are interested in shaping the imaginaries of wildlife conservation and we have developed artistic strategies for working with wild processes and nonhuman collaborators. We have proposed the concept of ‘wild performatives’ to frame this work. This has involved performing interventions in both rural and urban spaces, leading creative workshops, and ‘quaternary drifts’ (walks into deep time). This research has been funded by the Humanities and Arts Research Institute at Royal Holloway, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Research activities

View all 52 activities on Research Explorer

View all 46 publications on Research Explorer