Beyond the Binary

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Beyond the Binary

Performing Gender Then and Now

Beyond the Binary: Performing Gender Then and Now is a collaborative research project running between March 2022 and May 2023.

The project has brought together students, public researchers, performance-makers, archivists and academics to undertake original research into historic music hall and pantomime archives. Through this research and our exhibitions and performance-lecture we uncovered and are sharing new perspectives on performance and gender, both in the past and today. You can find out about our academic aims and objectives here.

Our research team has included people from all backgrounds and from across the gender spectrum, including queer, gender-fluid and non-binary people.

Between March and July 2022 we worked as a virtual team, using digitised materials from Special Collections and Archives, and the British Newspaper Archive, to explore the histories of gender expression. In July, this culminated in a two-day in-person event in the archives and at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, who hosted our pop-up exhibition and ‘In Conversation’ with a group of practitioners who each approach gender in different ways in their own work.

On 29 September, we premiered Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls, at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre, Canterbury. This new performance-lecture was co-created with non-binary folk performers, the Lunatraktors and featured comedian Mark Thomas.

In November 2022 we partnered with Ambassador Theatre Group and produced a travelling exhibition, ‘Pantomime: Beyond the Binary’ for the new production of Mother Goose, featuring Sir Ian McKellan and John Bishop. To accompany the exhibition, Prof. Helen Brooks, project lead, is running wrap-around talks and activities at many of the tour venues. You can find out more about the tour here.

You can hear Helen talking about the project on the following podcasts:

BBC Arts and Ideas

Researching the Rainbow