John has been working in theatre since graduating from an MA in Theatre at Leeds University (UK) in 1988. Since then he has directed, written and performed in over 80 productions across a wide range of art-forms, including theatre, dance, circus, children’s theatre, opera, improvisation, educational theatre and work that defies all categorization.
On first graduating he worked for a range of companies, including co-directing South Leeds Youth Theatre, performing with Third Theatre and touring rural and urban arts centers as a story-teller in collaboration with musician Chris Coe. He also worked with the Yorkshire Dance Centre, Yorkshire Youth Television and ran Aztec Theatre.
Between 1997 and 2004 he lived in Australia where he first encountered the work of Al Wunder and was Artistic Director of Student Theatre at Monash University. During this time, having established The Quiddity Ensemble, he began developing some of the approaches to training ensemble that later became ‘self-with-others’. He also ran Quiddity Theatre with Hilary Elliott, creating a number of inter-disciplinary performances – work which culminated in a series of duet improvisations called ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ – some 45 performances spread over nearly a decade and in numerous countries from Australia to Mexico, Sweden to the UK.
In 2004 he was appointed Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield (UK) where he designed and delivered the innovative MA Ensemble Physical Theatre – a practice-based MA course that ran for five years. During that time he was also commissioned to write ‘Encountering Ensemble’ for Methuen /Bloomsbury, due for publication in 2013. In 2013 he left his post at Huddersfield University to return to full-time artistic practice. He now spends much of the year touring the world, teaching, performing and directing. In recent years he has taught and directed dance, theatre, improvisation and inter-disciplinary performance, inside and outside established companies and institutions, in numerous countries, including regularly at the Balletakademien in Stockholm, at the Au Brana Cultural Centre in France, with Spielbank and Klinik Klowns in Munich, as well as in Greece, Portugal, Mexico, China, Australia, Slovenia, the UK and elsewhere. In 2013 he made his first visit to India where he performed, taught and ran two extended residential workshops in various locations around the country.
John cites the core influences on his work as being the tradition of European Laboratory Theatre that grew from Stanislavsky and Meyerhold and was further developed by Grotowski. Significant contemporary practitioners such as Nunez, Barba and Zarrilli are also important to his work. The other key influence comes from the movement towards dance improvisation that emerged from America in the 1950s, especially as further developed by Al Wunder in Australia. ‘Self-With-Others’ is the heart of his work as a teacher, director and performer. He uses it to train existing companies, professional performers, students and others both in groups and individually.