Professor Steve Nicholson


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


I have been teaching and researching in Universities for over thirty years, and am currently Professor in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Theatre within the School of English.

Much of my work explores relationships between theatre, society and political contexts; most recently, I have been writing about images of Hitler and the Nazis on the British stage during the 1930s, and about political drama written during the early months of the First World War, and the final part of my four volume history of twentieth century theatre censorship under the Lord Chamberlain has just been published. My previous book (2012) was Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s published as part of Methuen’s ‘Decades of Modern British Playwrighting’ series.

I also have a strong interest in particular contemporary playwrights and practitioners who challenge traditional conventions about character, narrative and performance. My next book will be about the contemporary playwright Howard Barker.

Beyond the academic arena, I once won a medal for wicket-keeping in the Huddersfield District Association Cricket League (Division Two), and - as a founder member of White Horse Travelling Theatre = I performed the roles of both St George and the dragon (though not simultaneously) at the Glastonbury Festival. My donkey in Ali Baba and the Four Tea Thieves is remembered fondly by many who attended primary schools in Somerset during the late 1970s, as is my Golux from The Thirteen Clocks.


My academic research has centred primarily on British political theatre and playwrights in the twentieth century, and the interplay between politics, morality and aesthetics. I particularly relish opportunities to work practically on some of the forgotten texts of the period.

My doctorate (Leeds University, 1991) focused on the portrayal of the Soviet Union and Communism in British Theatre between 1917 and 1945, and became the basis of my first book, British Theatre and The Red Peril. This questioned the assumption that the term `political´ can automatically be equated with `left-wing´, by unearthing a range of neglected (and mostly pretty awful) plays full of evil Bolsheviks.

Since then I have spent a lot of time exploring the history of theatre censorship in Britain between 1900 and 1968, mainly by examining the extensive archives of the Lord Chamberlain which are held in the British Library and the Royal Archive at Windsor Castle. I can tell you more about the content of these archives than you need to know, and have recently completed a four volume history of The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968. I continue to be intrigued by why so many authorities and societies have seen theatre and performance as a subversive and uniquely dangerous activity – `the House of Satan´ – which requires rigorous control and suppression. I would like to believe that this reputation is deserved. In July 2015 the Guardian newspaper published an article I wrote for them about the efforts of the Lord Chamberlain to prevent the public performance of plays critical of the Nazis.

Other recent work includes chapters on how Africa was depicted on the British stage in the 1920s, David Hare’s treatment of history and memory, W.H. Auden’s place in theatre of the 1930s, and the film adaptation of Look Back in Anger. Aside from a monograph about the playwright Howard Barker, I am currently writing a chapter about representations of Africa in British theatre in the 1950s and 60s, as well as a guide to Alan Bennett’s The History Boys for GCSE students of English Literature. More public contributions include running an education event at the National Theatre on censorship in the early part of the 20th Century, and a roundtable symposium at Geneva’s Theatre du Galpon as part of their season of Howard Barker plays (both November 2015).

I am a series editor for Exeter Performance Studies.


My undergraduate and postgraduate teaching is mostly based in the School of English´s Theatre Workshop and focuses on areas of theatre and performance. It frequently includes studio-based practice, and reflects one or more of my active research interests.


I welcome applicants from anyone wishing to work in areas which connect with any of my research interests.

Current or previous PhD supervisions have included theses focused on 19th Century Theatre in Sheffield, Howard Barker, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Philip Ridley, Biographical Drama, Political Theatre in Syria, Contemporary Playwrights in Iraq, and the work of Hermann Nitsch and Genesis P. Orridge.


  • British Theatre and the Red Peril: The Portrayal of Communim 1917-1945. (UEP, 1999).
  • The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume One, 1900-1932. (UEP, 2003).
  • The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume Two, 1933-1952. (UEP, 2005).
  • The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume Three: The Fifties. (UEP, 2011).
  • Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s. (Methuen, 2012).
  • The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume Four: The Sixties. (UEP, 2015)
Articles and chapters
  • Foreign Drama and The Lord Chamberlain in the 1950s’, in ed. Dominic Shellard, British Theatre in the 1950s. (Sheffield Academic Press 2000)
  • ‘Театральная цензура в свободной стране // Всемирное слово’, . Vsemirnoe Slovo, 2001. № 14.
  • ‘Dusty Hughes’, in ed. John Bull, The Dictionary of Literary Biography: British and Irish Dramatists Since World War II. (Buccoli Clark Layman, 2001).
  • Five essays in ed. Derek Jones, Censorship: A World Encyclopaedia (Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001).
  • Tony Harrison', in ed. John Bull, The Dictionary of Literary Biography: British and Irish Dramatists Since World War II. (Buccoli Clark Layman, 2002).
  • The Lord Chamberlain Regrets... The Readers' Reports of Theatre Censorship in Britain 1843-1968. (British Library Publications, 2004). [co-authored with Dominic Shellard]
  • A Critical Year in Perspective: 1926’;in ed. Baz Kershaw, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 Since 1895 [CUP, 2004]
  • ‘ “To ask how things might have been otherwise…”: History and Memory in the work of David Hare’; in ed. Richard Boon, The Cambridge Companion to David Hare [CUP, 2007]
  • ‘Images of Africa in Early Twentieth Century British Theatre’.  In ed. Yvette Hutchinson, African Theatre 9: Histories 1850-1950. [James Curry, 2010]
  • ‘1930s British Drama’. In ed. Tony Sharpe, W.H. Auden in Context. (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
  • John Osborne: ‘The British New Wave Begins: Richardson’s Look Back in Anger’; in ed. R. Barton Palmer and William Robert Bray, Modern British Drama on Screen. (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
  • Staging Hitler, Not Staging Hitler’; in ed. Rebecca D’Monte, British Theatre and Performance 1900-1950 (Methuen Bloomsbury, 2015)
  • ‘This Unhappy Nation’: War on the Stage in 1914’; in ed. Andrew Maunder, British Theatre and the Great War, 1914-1919 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)