Amy Clare Bonsall
- Course: PhD English (Practice-led)
- Year of graduation: 2017
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a theatre director and I work all over the world. I am also Associate Artistic Director of Bilimankhwe, a theatre company with strong ties to Malawi.
What made you want to apply for your PhD and to Leeds?
Working with our colleagues in Malawi made me aware of the discourses surrounding post-colonialism, the ethics of intercultural theatre practice and where the plays of Shakespeare sit within the Malawian theatrical and cultural landscape. The Workshop Theatre at the University has a long association with Malawian Theatre academics and practitioners. Professor Jane Plastow is very highly regarded in the field of African theatre practice and I was honoured when she agreed to supervise my research.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
Practice-led research in the arts is still an evolving research methodology, with theatre practice and performance even more so. I was very interested in developing my own research methods for this project to expand the field even further and creating points of contact between the theatre industry and the academy.
I was also passionate about piecing together the history of Shakespeare performance in Malawi and exploring what makes Shakespeare performance in Malawi unique. By consolidating this history and by having a Shakespeare text translated into Chichewa I was able to make Shakespeare's play even more accessible to Malawian audiences and students.
What aspects of your research did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed going out to Malawi on field research and searching the archives for evidence of Shakespeare performances. The most rewarding aspect of the research was defiantly seeing the final production of Romio ndi Julieti, 3 years in the making, played for live audiences; in particular, the performance at Chingalire Village (Malawi), to well over 1,000 people, was amazing to witness.
I also found the facilities to be of a good standard and that help was always available when required. The English Department was always very supportive of my work. What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to do their PhD at the University?
You must be passionate about your subject, it is that passion to complete your research and get it out into the public domain that will keep you going when you reach the low points. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and support.
What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?
I founded the Women in Academia Support Network #WIASN on Facebook and we have to date 9,500 members worldwide. I plan to develop the forum.
I will continue my research and I hope to secure a permanent position at a university. In the longer term I would like to establish a research institute focused upon intercultural theatrical collaborations between the UK, Malawi and other Southern African nations. This will allow me to continue my work as a theatre director/practitioner and as an academic. I am also working on recasting my PhD thesis into a monograph as well as publicising papers.