Upstaging itself

December 14, 2001

We visited six departments before today's results were announced to find out how they were preparing for the RAE.

Warwick: Theatre studies
1996: 5, 2001: 5* Staff: 9 (full-time equivalent)

Imagine being able to stand on the stage of the theatre of Pompeii during the age of the Roman Empire. You might walk around this magnificent building, or even create your own company of players to give a performance.

Researchers in Warwick University's School of Theatre Studies are using architectural evidence and advanced computer technology to help turn such dreams into virtual reality.

Building computerised three-dimensional records of many long-dead but historically significant theatres is just one of four key strands of research that the school submitted for the research assessment exercise.

The school is as old as its university, and has taken great strides forward in practice-based research since its foundation as a non-practical department that grew out of English studies.

In the last RAE it scored a 5. This time round, nine research-active permanent members of staff have submitted work ranging from the latest computer modelling of theatres to the study of theatre history in context, such as Shakespeare performed on the Japanese stage.

Other research strands include contemporary theatre and performance and developing new kinds of postmodern multimedia performance built on a strong and carefully researched theoretical base.

The school is also running popular MA programmes in cultural policy and administration and creative and media enterprises.

David Thomas, former head of the school and now one of its chief researchers, said: "By having this wide range of distinctive research strands, it means we have a lot of energy and creativity in areas that can cross-fertilise."

For the future, the school is collaborating with researchers from the University of Kent to launch a new MA in performance space and IT modelling.

It is hoped that the programme will provide students with the skills to create computerised 3D models that can not only be used to test theories about stage design, but also to produce virtual recreations of any historical site.

RAE 2001 league tables

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