John is the Founder and Artistic Director of DUENDE.
He is also the Director of The DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre.
His approach to training individuals within ensemble (Self-With-Others) is the foundation on which DUENDE’s work is built.
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 categorisation.
On first graduating he worked for a range of companies in the North of England, including co-directing South Leeds Youth Theatre, performing with Third Theatre and touring rural and urban arts centres 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 John lived in Australia where he first encountered the work of Al Wunder. 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 – 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, published 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, and Klinik Klowns in Munich and Vienna, as well as in Greece, Portugal, Mexico, China, Australia, Singapore, Slovenia, India, the UK and elsewhere.
In addition to his teaching work, John is in demand as a director of Physical and Interdisciplinary performance. In recent years he has directed for companies such as Padatik Theatre in Kolkata, India; Casus Circus in Brisbane, Australia; ESP in Brisbane/Edinburgh; 'Ode' in Seattle, USA; and Rosa Prodromou in Athens, Greece. He also lectures and speaks regularly at conferences about performance and pedagogy.
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 developments in 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 John’s work as a teacher, director and performer. He uses this approach to train existing companies, professional performers, students and others in groups and individually.