Punchdrunk on the Classics is an AHRC-funded project based at the University of Bristol (AH/S00453X/1), led by PI Dr Emma Cole. The project aims to pioneer a new direction of research in classical performance reception by looking at the interrelationship between ancient literature and immersive experience in the contemporary creative economy. It features Punchdrunk as a project partner; Punchdrunk are a world-leading theatre company who have pioneered a participatory form of immersive theatre which blends classic texts, physical performance, award-winning design installation, and unexpected sites. The research builds upon the PI’s pre-existing relationship with Punchdrunk, established when she collaborated with the company on Kabeiroi (2017). It involves her working with the company on a series of creative outputs, through a knowledge exchange arrangement where she will contribute academic expertise whilst documenting the company’s collaborative process and gaining knowledge regarding the rehearsing and development of immersive theatre. In particular, Dr Cole will be seconded to Punchdrunk for the R&D and rehearsal periods for The Burnt City (2022), on which she is dramaturg.

The research resulting from her secondments with the company will be disseminated through the monograph Punchdrunk on the Classics: Ancient Greek Literature and Immersive Experience (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan). The fellowship will also support Dr Cole’s leadership of a year-long ‘in-conversation’ seminar series (2019-2020), involving curated discussions between academics and practitioners working in collaboration, alongside a major conference on antiquity and immersivity (2021).

Punchdrunk on the Classics is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through an RCUK Innovation Fellowship (Leadership Fellows Highlight Notice). The AHRC funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training, in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.

Punchdrunk Theatre Company are a project partner on the fellowship.