Dr Paul Johnson

Head of School of Performing Arts & Associate Dean for Quality and Partnerships

Paul Johnson
Email address: Paul.Johnson@wlv.ac.uk Phone number: 01902 322807 Location: MK509/WH339 Faculty: Faculty of Arts School/Institute: School of Performing Arts Areas of expertise: Drama, theatre, performing arts, science and performance, theatre in museums and heritage sites, applied theatre, experimental theatre


Paul was appointed as Associate Dean and Head of the School of Performing Arts in September 2014, having previously been Head of Drama and Musical Theatre within the School. He worked in theatre before studying at the University of Glasgow, followed by the award of a research studentship for PhD study from what is now the University of Worcester. He then took up a research post at the University of Manchester, working on projects investigating the use of theatre in engaging young people with issues in biomedical science (funded by the Wellcome Trust), and the educational effectiveness of theatre in museums (funded by the AHRB). 

Paul's current role is to lead the development of the Faculty’s academic portfolio, including the introduction of new courses, and to manages the Faculty’s quality enhancement, including QAA and Periodic Review processes. He has responsibility for developing and managing the Faculty's international and UK partnerships, which involve students studying Faculty of Arts courses across the world. He also provides strategic leadership for the School of Performing Arts, working closely with Heads of Department and academic and support staff.

Paul is an award winning teacher who has lectured at four different institutions, teaching modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level on areas including directing, devising, experimental theatre, research methods and applied theatre. He has been external examiner at five institutions, including most recently being appointed to the Standing Panel of External Assessors at Manchester Metropolitan University. Paul was Vice-Chair of SCUDD (from 2007 - 2010), the body which represents the interests of Drama, Theatre and Performing Arts in the Higher Education sector in the UK, and retains a keen interest in the development of the subject in Higher Education.

He is an active researcher, is currently supervising a number of PhD students, and has authored and edited books, articles and chapters on a variety of aspects of theatre and performance, presenting his work at academic conferences around the world.

Paul is available for research supervision in a wide range of areas relating to contemporary theatre and performance and would welcome informal enquiries.

Research interests

Paul's areas of research interest are in interdisciplinary approaches to performance, such as science and philosophy; applied drama, in particular museum and heritage theatre; and experimental performance in Europe and the USA. Paul has published widely in these areas, and undertaken a range of applied research activities.

  • Peer Reviews undertaken for Arts and Humanities Research Council, Palgrave MacMillan, National Research Foundation (South Africa), Somatechnics Journal, Higher Education Academy
  • Co-ordinated submission from Performing Arts staff entered for REF 2014
  • PhD Examiner (both internal and external)

Membership of professional bodies

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the TaPRA Performance and Science working group (previously member of the Theatre, Performance and Philosophy working group)
  • Member of the American Theatre and Drama Society
  • Member of the International Museum Theatre Alliance (IMTAL)


  • PhD (Coventry)
  • MA (Hons) Physics and Theatre Studies (Glasgow)
  • PGCert Learning and Teaching in HE (Wolverhampton)


  • Johnson, Paul and Dobkovska, Sylwia (eds.) (2015) Justitia: Multidisciplinary readings of the work of Jasmin Vardimon Company. Intellect: Bristol.
  • Johnson, Paul (2014) ‘Science, performance and transformation: performance for a ‘scientific’ age?’ International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. Vol. 10, Iss. 2.
  • Johnson, Paul (2014) ‘Ideology and the True/False Performance of Heritage’ in Chow B, Mangold A. (Eds.) Zizek and performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Johnson, Paul (2012) Quantum Theatre: Science and Contemporary Performance Newcastle: CSP.
  • Johnson, Paul (2010) ‘The space of ‘museum theatre’: a framework for performing heritage’ in Jackson, A and Kidd, J. (Eds.) Performing Heritage: Research, practice and innovation in museum theatre and live interpretation Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Johnson, Paul (2010) 'Applying Popper: An evolutionary approach to performance' in Meyer-Dinkgräfe, D and Watt, D. (Eds) Ethical Encounters: Boundaries of Theatre, Performance and Philosophy Newcastle: CSP.
  • Johnson, Paul (2010) 'Art or Honesty? Breaking the rules of the game with immersive museum theatre' in Townley, B. & Beech, N. (Eds) The Discipline of Organizing Creativity: Exploring the Paradox Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Johnson, Paul (2009) 'Knickers and Vests Pilot Project Evaluation' (30p.)
  • Johnson, Paul (2008) ‘Making it up as we go along: Construction of Narrative in Immersive Museum Theatre’ in The Narrative Practitioner Conference Proceedings 2007 Wrexham: Glyndwr University.
  • Johnson, Paul (2007) ‘Who is the Tallyman? Identity, family history and quantum mechanics in the work of Triangle Theatre’’ inTriangle’s Work in Times of War (DVD)
  • Johnson, Paul (2007) ‘How to Scare the Curator and the Audience: A new Model for Museum Theatre?’ in Triangle’s Work in Times of War (DVD)
  • 'Executive Summary' of ‘Seeing it for Real’ reprinted in Toimijoiden Toreilla (journal of the Finnish Drama/Theatre & Education Association). Helsinki: FIDEA, Spring 2003.
  • Jackson, Anthony and Johnson, Paul ‘Performing Arts and the Wellcome Trust: a report into the use of the performing arts in engaging young people with issues related to biomedical science, in order to inform a new young people's performing arts initiative by the Wellcome Trust’ (2002) (42p.) Report accepted by the Trust in Sept. 2002 and a new £250,000 grant-aid scheme for professional and non-professional performing arts projects & productions, "Pulse", established on the lines proposed in the report, was launched in November 2002.
  • Jackson , Anthony, Johnson, Paul, Rees Leahy, Helen, Walker , Verity, (2002), Seeing it for Real: An Investigation into the effectiveness of theatre and theatre techniques in museums University of Manchester CATR.

Papers Presented

  • 'Who do you think you are kidding Mr Feynman? – The imaginative performance of theoretical physics.' Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (Salford University, UK) 2017,
  • 'Performance, Science and the Human: Artificial sentience and virtual human performance' Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (Bristol University, UK) 2016,
  •  'Bioethics, performance, and the failure of imagination' Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (University of Worcester, UK) 2015,
  • 'Experiment(al): experience duly ordered or bungling and erratic' Performing Science Dialogues Across Cultures (Lincoln University, UK) 2014,
  • ‘Remembering/remaking: Jasmin Vardimon Company’s Yesterday’ Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (Kingston University, UK) 2011,
  • “You can’t f___ memories or get cash for them”: Reinventing memory in the plays of Tom Eyen’ Performance Studies International (Utrecht University, Netherlands) 2011,
  • 'Aristotle and the idea of theatre' Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (University of Glamorgan, UK) 2010,
  • 'Fiction, history and risk: a framework for performing heritage' Performing Heritage: Research and Practice Conference (University of Manchester, UK) 2008,
  • ‘Applying Popper: An Evolutionary Approach to Performance’ Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference (University of Birmingham, UK) 2007,
  • ‘Object and Truth: Transformation of Consciousness in Immersive Museum Theatre’ International Federation of Theatre Research Conference (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa) 2007,
  • ‘Making it up as we go along: Construction of Narrative in Immersive Museum Theatre’ Narrative Practitioner Conference (NEWI, Wrexham, UK) 2007,
  • ‘Art or honesty? Breaking the rules of the game with immersive museum theatre’ (Institute for Capitalising on Creativity AHRC/ESRC Workshops The Discipline of Creativity: Exploring the Paradox, Dundee, UK) 2007,
  • ‘New writing at the Birmingham Rep: New Voices for a New City?’ The Glory of the Garden: Regional Theatre Since 1980 (Liverpool JMU, UK) 2006,
  • ‘Santa Claus and the bit player: Camp in two plays by Tom Eyen’ Transversalities Conference (University of Reading, UK) 2005,
  • ‘Play, Performance and Quantum Mechanics’ Theatres of Science Conference (University of Glamorgan, UK) 2004,
  • ‘What is science theatre?’ Association of Science Education (University of Birmingham, UK) 2003,
  • Team presentation on findings from the ‘theatre in museums’ research project International Federation of Theatre Research (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 2002,
  • Preliminary findings from the ‘theatre in museums’ research project International Museum Theatre Alliance (London, UK) 2001,
  • ‘Carran Waterfield’s Millennophobia Project: time, space and ritual theatre’ International Federation of Theatre Research (Lyon, France) 2000.

Research Funding

  • 2012 HEA Research Workshop Funding for Jasmin Vardimon Symposium (£1500),
  • 2011 Central Youth Theatre Evaluation of Everybody Dance Now International Festival (£4500),
  • 2009 Triangle Theatre Evaluation of Knickers and Vests Pilot Project (£1500),
  • 2008/9 Institute of Learning Enhancement Research Project ‘Online learning to develop engagement, critical thinking and reflection in Drama’ (£2000),
  • 2008 CeLT Phase 1 L+T Research Project ‘Encouraging theoretical engagement with performance practice through on-line assessment.’ (£2000),
  • 2006/7 ERAS Research Fellowship to develop work on Immersive Museum Theatre (£5000),
  • 2002: Awarded Research Grant by the Wellcome Trust to research the current and potential uses of the performing arts in developing awareness among young people of new developments and issues in bio-medicine and bio-technology, in order to inform the planning of a new programme of performing arts grant-aid by the Trust. May - September 2002. (£18000) Proposal Co-authored with Anthony Jackson.

Experience in industry

Paul has undertaken professional work as writer and director, including A Brief History of Time at the Tramway, Glasgow with Vanishing Point Theatre (2000, 2002), Looking for the Angel in Flight at The Tron, Glasgow and Capitol Theatre, Manchester (1999, 2001), and most recently a series of science education plays. Paul has also worked as a script reader both for the Literary Department of the Birmingham Rep and SCRIPT, the West Midlands agency for dramatic writing.

Further information

Postgraduate Supervision:

  • Greg Marshall: How Digital Culture Informs Live Theatre Practice
  • Isi Agboaye: Interrogating and dramatising trauma; a postcolonialist context
  • David Bryant: SOMA:  Toward a 21st Century Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk
  • Kate Hale: An Ethical Playground: Intimacy and Otherness in One-to-One Performance
  • Leonard Love: New British Musical Theatre in the 21st Century: an investigation of (under-)funding developments and creative processes.

Paul has successfully supervised two PhD and one professional doctorate student to completion. 

Paul is available for PhD supervision in the following areas:

  • interdisciplinary approaches to performance, such as science and philosophy; 
  • applied drama, in particular museum and heritage theatre
  • experimental performance in Europe and the USA.