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David Shirley

Principal Lecturer

A professional actor with extensive experience in theatre, film, television and radio, David trained at the Arts Educational Schools and at RADA. He joined MMU in 1999. Initially the Subject Leader or Drama at MMU Cheshire, he joined the Faculty of Art and Design as Director of the School of Theatre and Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Acting course in 2004. The founding Chair of the Conference of Drama Schools Research Forum and a former Co-convenor of the 20th/21st Century Performer Training Group at TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association), David is actively engaged in promoting research initiatives across the HE performer training sector. His own research includes published articles/book chapters related to Stanislavsky and Russian Naturalism, British Actor and Director training, the American Method, the work of Samuel Beckett and Postdramatic Theatre.

David regularly collaborates with the Hallé Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall and has worked with Carl Davis, Sir Mark Elder and Markus Stenz.

David is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

David is currently the Chair of the Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)


A Life in Pieces by David Shirley

Commissioned by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, A Life in Pieces explores both the insights and contradictions that became apparent in the various TV and Radio interviews Burgess gave between the mid 1960s and the early 1990s. Highlighting his love of language and literature and his complex relationship to religion, this new play affords a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the 20th Century's most prolific and versatile writers. Details…

Beyond the Score: Dvorak Symphony No.9 'From the New World'

In May 2016, David Shirley directed Beyond the Score: Dvorak's New World Symphony. Written and created by Gerard McBurney, this performance was conducted by Sir Mark Elder and featured Henry Goodman, Johnny Byrom and Barney Healy-Smith. Details…

Carl Davis - The Last Train to Tomorrow

David is currently directing a new composition by Carl Davis. Inspired by the Kindertransport movement in Germany during the late 1930s, this piece features six actors, the Halle Orchestra and the Halle Children's Choir. Details…

Felix Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream

In February 2013, David will be directing the Halle's British premiere of Gerard McBurney's adaptation of Shakespeare's wonderfully evocative and moving text. Conducted by Markus Stenz, the production will feature Valda Wilson (soprano), Ladies of the Halle Choir, the Halle Youth Choir and a group of young actors. Details…

Performing Classical and Modern Play-texts.

Performing Classical and Modern Play-texts David Shirley is currently leading The School of Theatre's contribution to an important three year collaborative HEA funded project entitled 'Integrated Learning Models: Understanding and Performing Modern Play-texts'. This initiative provides an extremely valuable opportunity to engage in a wide ranging debate about the efficacy of the teaching and learning models adopted in the training/education sector. Details…

Royal Northern College of Music - A Shakespeare Day of Song

A Shakespeare Day of Song - Scenes, Sonnets and Recitations. Directed by David Shirley To compliment our Day of Song, this selection of extracts affords a flavour of some of Shakespeare's extraordinary work. Details…

TaPRA - C20th-C21st Century Performer Training Working Group

Established by Dr Simon Murray (University of Glasgow), Professor Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and David Shirley (Manchester Metropolitan University), the C20th and C21st Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for six years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a chapter on Research Methods for the Laboratory and a twice-yearly journal dedicated to training. Further details about the work of this group can be found at: http://tapra. Details…

The Salamander and the Moonraker - An Adventure Story in Music

In July 2018, David Shirley directed The Salamander and the Moonraker by Edward Gregson with text by Susan Gregson. The conductor was Stephen Bell and the performance featured the Halle Orchestra and Children's Choir at the Bridgewater Hall on Sunday July 1st 2018. Details…

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

In May 2015, David will be collaborating with Sir Mark Elder to direct a newly scripted version of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra with the Halle orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. The performance will take place on Thursday 21st May 2015 at 7. Details…

William Walton's Film Music for Laurence Olivier's Henry V

David will be directing the Halle's presentation of William Walton's famous film music for Laurence Olivier's version of Shakespeare's Henry V. Conducted by Jamie Phillips and featuring the Halle Youth Orchestra and Children's and Youth Choirs, the performance will take place at 3pm on Sunday 9th March at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Details…


A selection of recent research outputs.


Gerard McBurney (Writer and Creator); Sir Mark Elder (Conductor); David Shirley (Director), 2016. 'Beyond the Score: Dvorak Symphony No. 9, "From the New World'', Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, May 7th 2016.

Britten, Benjamin (Composer) Elder, Sir Mark (Conductor) Shirley, David (Director), 2015. 'The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra', Halle Orchestra at the Manchester Bridgewater Hall, Thursday 21st May 2015 at 7.30pm.

Walton, William (Composer), Phillips, Jamie (Conductor), Shirley, David (Director),, 2014. 'William Walton's Henry V', The Halle Youth Orchestra and Choirs at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 9th March 2014.

McBurney, G (Adaptation); Stenz, M, (Conductor); Shirley, D (Director), 2013. 'Felix Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream (complete incidental music)', The Halle at The Bridgewater Hall, 28th February 2013 at 7.30pm.

Davis, C (Composer), Oram, Hiawyn, (Author), Shirley, D. (Director), 2012. 'The Last Train to Tomorrow by Carl Davis', Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, June 2012.

Bolton, Darren, 2006. ''Invisible'', Screenings of this short film to be held at various short film festivals throughout the UK and Europe, from May 2006.


Shirley, D., Turner, J., 2012. 'Performing Narrative: narration, 'denarration', fracture and absence in contemporary performance practice', MMU.

Shirley, D, 2007. 'Stanislavski's System: The Anatomy of an Actor's Art', Oberon Books.

Book Chapters

Shirley, DG., 2018. 'Stanislavski's System and the Director's Art in the Twenty First Century'. In Tait, P. (eds.) The Great Stage Directors: Stanislavski, Antoine, Saint Denis, Bloomsbury Books.

Deeney, JF., 2013. 'Location, location, location: narrative and 'blankness' in recent British drama'. In Turner, J., Shirley, D. (eds.) Performing Narrative: Narration, 'Denarration', Fracture and Absence in Contemporary Performance Practice, pp. 1-11, MMU Institute for Performance Research.

Kinghorn, SW., 2013. 'Nothing but the Truth: narrative, authenticity and the dramatic in tribunal theatre'. In Shirley, D., Turner, J. (eds.) Performing Narrative, pp. 12-27, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Shirley, D., 2013. 'Voice and Presence in Samuel Beckett's Footfalls (1976), Rockaby (1981) and Krapp's Last Tape (1958)'. In Performing Narrative
narration, 'denarration', fracture and absence in contemporary performance practice
, mmu.

Shirley, D., 2012. 'Stanislavky's Passage into the British Conservatoire'. In Russians in Britain British Theatre and the Russian Tradition of Actor Training, Routledge.

Shirley, D., 2012. 'Stanislavsky's Passage into the British Conservatoire'. In Pitches, Jonathan (eds.) Russians in Britain, Chapter 2, Routledge: London.

Shirley, D., 2008. 'Where is My Character? Acting and Performance in the Unascribed Play'. In Meyer-Dinkgraffe, Daniel and Watt, Daniel (eds.) Theatres of Thought: Theatre and Performance Philosophy, Chapter 14, 176-184, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Shirley, D., 2007. 'Stanislavki's System: The Anatomy of an Actor's Art'. In ReACTING A Fresh Approach to Key Practitioners.

Journal Articles

Shirley, DG., 2018. 'His Dream of Passion: Reflections on the work of Lee Strasberg and his influence on British Actor Training (Part Two)', Stanislavski Studies.

Shirley, D., 2016. 'His Dream of Passion: Reflections on the work of Lee Strasberg and his influence on British Actor Training', Stanislavski Studies, Volume 4/Issue 1, pp.47-61.

Shirley, D., 2016. 'His dream of passion: reflections on the work of Lee Strasberg and his influence on British actor training', Stanislavski Studies, 4 (1), pp. 47-62.

Shirley, D., 2010. 'The Reality of Doing: Meisner Technique and British Actor Training', Theatre, Dance and Performer Training, 1:2, 199-213.


Shirley, D. and Thomaidis, K, 2012. 'TaPRA C20th-C21st Performer Training Interim Event', Exploring Boundaries and Crossing Borders, Centre for Creative Collaboration, London, 10th May 2012.

Shirley, D., 2009. 'Reflections on the Importance of 'Character' in British Actor training', Actor Training Symposium, Central School of Speech and Drama, 10th July 2009.

Shirley, D and Boston, J., 2008. 'Beckett and the Postdramatic Theatre', Creativity and Employability: Developing the Vocational Performing Arts Curriculum, LIPA, 26th-28th March 2008.

Shirley, D., 2008. 'Voice and Presence in the Theatre of Samuel Beckett', Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), University of Leeds, 3rd-5th September 2008.

Shirley, D. (Chair), Boston, J.,Tyson A., Wylde M., Moseley N., 2007. 'The Actor, The Text and Postmodernity', How To Act, Central School of Speech and Drama, 14-17 February 2007.

Shirley, D., Boston J., 2007. 'Voice, Text and Presence in the Theatre of Samuel Beckett', How To Act, Central School of Speech and Drama, 14-17 February 2007.

Shirley, D., 2006. 'Playing with Character - Experimental and Post-modern Theatre', CDS Acting Methodology Seminar, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park, 22nd - 23rd May 2006.

Shirley, D. and Colman, G., 2005. 'We Don't Do Character - Approaches to Performance in the Un-ascribed Play', Theatre and Performance Association (TaPRA), University of Manchester, 8th-11th September 2005.