As a playwright, actor and director, Val Phelps practises many different play genres and styles of theatre.
From dark fairy tales, docudramas, murder mysteries and short story performances, to the theatre of cruelty and the intriguingly titled “invisible theatre”, Val brings a varied professional background to her teaching at Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA).
Val’s main research interest – and submitted PhD proposal – centres on text relating to styles of theatre; titled Writing and Performance Studies, she eventually plans to turn her findings into a textbook that will include three of her own scripts.
“I am exploring ways in which we can put practitioners together to explore how methodologies and theories work, and give examples of how they can be used in recognised texts. I often see HE students struggle to understand how texts relate to theatre styles.”
Traditional theatre textbooks, says Val, tend to polarise methods, labelling plays as either Brechtian or Stanislavskian, for example.
“As long as you understand those two styles, there is nothing wrong with using them together. I am also exploring theatre practitioner Antonin Artaud’s methods of the theatre of cruelty – the ways that making an audience feel uncomfortable can help them explore emotions and senses in a much more intense manner.”
As well as the PhD, which has been submitted as a proposal to Birmingham University, Val has a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies from Bolton, an MA in Creative Writing from Bretton Hall and a PGCE from Huddersfield.
She has penned 15 plays – including 2012’s darkly humorous horror, The Bates Motel, which was performed at Tickton Little Theatre in East Yorkshire – and has run her own professional touring company since 1995.
With Blue Angel Theatre Company, Val wrote, acted and directed courtroom dramas for Wakefield Town Hall, ran murder mystery events in hotels, as well as the aforementioned “invisible theatre”.
Other recent plays include The Writers’ Circle, also performed at Tickton Little Theatre, and Original Sin, an observational piece about the nature of humanity.
She has had plays commissioned by clients ranging from household names to The Leeds School of Medicine and belongs to the London Society of Writers, which meets quarterly for collaborative writing projects and networking opportunities.
Val has been teaching since 2001 and lecturing at HSPA since 2006. She has performed readings of her work, such as Red Riding Hood: The Truth, at Oxford Literature Festival. She attends creative writing workshops, most recently a three-day event at the Faber Academy in London with Hanif Kareishi and Marcel Theroux.