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Helen Iball


Helen Iball


Doctored Identities#1: Thirtysomething Woman Academic

(or ‘ does my brain look big in this?' )







This performative paper is developed from the piece I made during the Bobby Baker weekend workshop organised by the ‘Women's Writing for Performance' project, and the performance persona ‘Helen the Academic' created during that process.

Making the work initiated a process of reflection on the balancing act between personal and professional identities that theatre/performance academics need to negotiate and renegotiate – especially if they are working in autobiographical and confessional forms of performance with their students. The research and development of the project got me re-reading and re-formulating Roland Barthes' essay ‘Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers' and the 1997 TDR article ‘Sista Docta: Performance as Critique of the Academy' by the American scholar and practitioner Joni Jones.

This paper will perform - and through performance will interrogate and contest - the challenges to self-definition and professional identification with which a woman in a C21st British university is likely to be faced on a daily basis. It will explore the quest to find an image and to experience cost-effective moments of joy at living and to engage students with theoretical/philosophical heavyweights and not to drink too much coffee or develop wonky frown lines from squinting at the computer screen and the battle not to turn into Janet Street Porter at the slightest provocation in staff meetings or lie to taxi drivers about what you do for a living…




Helen Iball is a Lecturer in Drama at The University of Hull. Her research interests include: Theatricality and performativity in drama and cultural studies; liveness and ultraincarnation (particularly in contemporary British theatre and its representation of appetite, desire and invasion); the body in performance (especially relating to food, abjection and the grotesque).


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