Dr Rachel Zerihan

Postgraduate Director for Theatre and Performance


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


My research interests lie at the interface between live art and theatre, with a particular emphasis on examining the relationship between performer and spectator

I joined the School of English as a Lecturer in Theatre at Sheffield in 2010, having previously taught at several London universities including Queen Mary University of London and Laban Trinity.

In my undergraduate degree I was introduced to Performance Art, through traces of its inception in avant-garde theatre practices, and since that time I've been fascinated by performance work that exists at the margins of mainstream culture. I’m especially drawn to affective, experiential theatre and radical aesthetics in live art practice .

I have worked as a director, performer, playwright and festival curator in fringe theatres in Derry and London and retain a passionate interest in performance that adopts interventionist strategies to affect social-spatial discourse.

My PhD thesis explored `Catharsis in Works of Contemporary Female Performance´, and was completed in 2009 under Professor Adrian Heathfield. In it I revisited the ancient concept of catharsis through contemporary performance works by Kira O´Reilly, Karen Finley and Sarah Kane, exploring affinities of affect across theatre and live art aesthetics.

I am Postgraduate Director for Theatre and Performance.


Following my doctorial research into catharsis, its contemporary manifestations and potential efficacies, I became particularly intrigued by performer/spectator dynamics and the transmission of affect. From an interest in exploring analyst/analysand environments in relation to staged encounters, I developed a concern for practically and critically researching the proliferation of `one-to-one´ performance works being made on the live art circuit, and now in the fringe theatre scene too.

In 2007 I worked with Maria Chatzichristodoulou (aka Maria X) to co-direct Intimacy: Across Visceral and Digital Performance a three-day live and digital art programme that took place across four "real" spaces, the "virtual" landscape of Second Life and various mediated sites. A collection of co-edited writings under the same heading was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2012.

I maintain a keen interest in experiencing and analyzing performances that take place in different environments (physical, virtual, mediated) and in 2009 co-edited a book exploring such Interfaces of Contemporary Performance (Ashgate).

I have written numerous articles and book chapters on the potential opportunities and implications of one-to-one performance and in 2014 I co-edited a special edition of Performing Ethos journal examining ethics in one-to-one Performance. I am in the final stages of completing a manuscript for a book on one-to-one performance - its lure, agency and impact, which will be published by Palgrave MacMillan.


I currently teach on the following modules:

  • EGH116 Theatre Practice: Making Texts
  • EGH236 Contemporary Performance Practice
  • EGH336 Performance Essay


I currently supervise research students examining: the work of playwright Philip Ridley, Paratextuality in contemporary performance, the performance of trauma in a selection of contemporary British plays and poetry and dance in the New York School. I recently supervised a project examining Iraqi Theatre 1990-2013 to successful completion. I welcome applications from research students sharing an interest in any of my areas of expertise, particularly in fields including; live art, body art, interventionist theatre practices, intimacy/risk in performance, One-to-One performance, contemporary female playwrights and contemporary theatre practice


Edited collections
  • Zerihan, Rachel, Eirini Kartsaki and Brian Lobel (2014) Special Edition of Performing Ethos Journal looking at Ethics and One to One Performance, London: Intellect.
  • Zerihan, Rachel and Maria Chatzichristodoulou (aka Maria X) (2012), Intimacy: Across Visceral and Digital Performance, London: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Zerihan, Rachel, Maria Chatzichristodoulou (aka Maria X) and Janis Jefferies (2009), Interfaces of Performance, London: Ashgate.
Articles and chapters
  • Zerihan, Rachel and Eirini Kartsaki (2014) ‘Slots, Slaps, Sluts and Other Cheap Thrills: Promiscuity, Desire and Labour in One to One Performance’ in Performing Ethos Journal 3(2), pp.155-171
  • Zerihan, Rachel, Dee Heddon and Helen Iball (2012) ‘Come Closer: Confessions of an Intimate Spectator’ in Contemporary Theatre Review Special Issue: Live Art in the UK edited by Dominic Johnson, 22(1), pp.120-133
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2010) ‘La Petite Mort: Erotic Encounters in One to One Performance’ in Eroticism and Death in Theatre and Performance, edited by Karoline Gritzner, University of Hertfordshire Press.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2009) ‘One to One Performance: A Study Room Guide’ for The Live Art Development Agency. Available to download.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2009) ‘Close Encounters: Intimacy, Confession and Response-ability’ in I Confess…Symposium Programme, Glasgow University.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2009) ‘Revisiting Catharsis in Contemporary Live Art Practice: Kira O’Reilly’s Evocative Skin Works’ in Theatre Research International, 35(1), pp.32-42.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2008) ‘Dear James’ in Moving Pitches: Street Art Performance, James King Derry: Yes! Publications.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2006) ‘Intimate Inter-actions: Returning to the Body in One to One Performance’ in Body, Space, Technology Journal, 6(1).
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2005) ‘Outside the Box’ Exploring work of Kira O’Reilly in Esse Cultural Magazine (CA).
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2014) Review of Jennifer Doyle’s book Hold it Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art in Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol. 24:3, pp.398-400.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2012) Review of Simon Donger, Simon Shepherd and ORLAN’s co-edited collection ORLAN: A Hybrid Body of Artworks in Contemporary Theatre Review.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2011) Review of Marla Carlson’s book Performing Bodies in Pain: Medieval and Post-Modern Martyrs, Mystics and Artists, in Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol.21:3, pp.353-354.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2011) Review of ‘One on One Festival, Battersea Arts Centre’ in Dance Theatre Journal, Vol.24:2, pp.44-50.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2010) Review of ‘Gay Shame Goes Girly, Brixton Academy’- Performance and Club Event in Dance Theatre Journal.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2009) Review of ‘Gay Shame 2008: Duckie Gets Macho’ Performance and Club Event in Dance Theatre Journal, Vol.23:2, pp.20-26.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2009) Review of Clare Wallace’s book Suspect Cultures: Narrative, Identity and Citation in 1990s New Drama for Contemporary Theatre Review, 19(4), pp.498-499.
  • Zerihan, Rachel (2006) Review of Future Factory’s 'Sensitive Skin Season' in Dance Theatre Journal, Vol.22:1, pp.11-15.