The keynote talk for 'Collaboration in Theatre symposium' at the University of Oxford, 19 October 2018.
Most of the directors presented in David Bradby and David Williams's seminal 1988 volume Directors' Theatre are also renowned as leaders of ensembles. This position has often been problematised in terms of authorship and the implied hierarchies. Simon Shepherd (2012) has noted that director figureheads in ensembles became increasingly unfashionable in the aftermath of poststructuralist anti-authoritarianism. At the turn of the 21st century ensemble directors have sought to emphasise the element of co-authorship in their work or a relativisation of their own authority. Mermikides and Smart (2010) have identified a contemporary prevalence of ensembles led by tandems. My own previous research has encountered reluctant ensemble leaders, directorless ensembles and leaders interested in facilitating self-determination of their groups (Radosavljevic 2013). Using notions of heterarchy and eco-leadership, this paper took the investigation forward in an attempt of defining a 21st century model of ensemble director. More specifically, the paper looked at the case study of Improbable Theatre's directorial tandem Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson and their use of improvisation as a type of self-sustaining systemic leadership. The case study expands the theme of improvisation established in the original volume, and represents an addition to a revised anniversary edition of the book, edited by Peter Boenisch and David Williams (due in 2018). Dr Duska Radosavljevic is a Reader in Contemporary Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is the author of the award-winning Theatre-Making - Interplay Between Text and Performance in the 21st Century (2013) and editor of The Contemporary Ensemble (2013) and Theatre Criticism - Changing Landscapes (2016). The talk was introduced by Hannah Greenstreet (Jesus College) and Alexander Thomas (University College)