Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Laura Bradley

Personal Chair of German and Theatre

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Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Laura is happy to supervise projects on twentieth-century German theatre, Brecht, GDR literature and culture, and censorship, and prospective students are very welcome to approach her with informal enquiries. Supervisors at Edinburgh often work as a team, and Laura has experience of co-supervising and examining MScR and PhD projects in English Literature and Russian, as well as having supervised several PhD students in German to completion.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Oxford
"Es ist unmöglich, ohne die Bühne ein Stück fertig zu machen": Brecht's "Die Mutter" in Performance
Master of Studies, University of Oxford
European Literature. Distinction.
Master of Arts, University of Oxford
Modern History and Modern Languages (German). Congratulatory First.


MA (Hons), MSt, DPhil (Oxon)
After studying for an MA in German and History at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, Prof. Laura Bradley completed an MSt in European Literature and a DPhil in German, also at Oxford. She held a Junior Research Fellowship at Merton College, Oxford, for two years before coming to Edinburgh in 2005. She is Series Editor of German Monitor.

Research Interests

Laura Bradley's research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics, particularly in relation to theatre. She has published extensively on Brecht, GDR theatre censorship, and representations of crime in GDR film and television. She has regularly worked on public engagement projects, most recently with the playwright Peter Arnott and the documentary film maker Susan Kemp.

Research Activity

Laura's first monograph was published by Oxford University Press in 2006, under the title Brecht and Political Theatre: 'The Mother' on Stage. It traced the performance history of Brecht’s play Die Mutter from its origins in the Weimar Republic, through Brecht’s exile and the division of Germany, to the Berlin Republic. As Die Mutter is the only text that Brecht staged in the Weimar Republic, in exile and the GDR, it is uniquely placed to offer insights into his development as a theatre director. His three contrasting productions show how he became more sensitive to cultural difference and more pragmatic about making concessions for particular audiences, in order to increase their receptivity towards his work. In turn, post-Brechtian directors have used Die Mutter to promote their own political and theatrical concerns, from anti-authoritarian theatre to reflections on the legacies of state Socialism.

Her second monograph was published by Oxford University Press in 2010, under the title Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989. The key questions concern how theatre censorship worked, in contrast to censorship of the book; how theatre censorship developed between 1961 and 1989; and how (far) it varied from one theatre and region to the next. The material includes state and Party papers from regional and federal archives; the Stasi files; and material from theatre archives, such as prompt books, rehearsal notes, set designs, photographs and correspondence. This research was generously supported by the AHRC, British Academy, Carnegie Trust and DAAD.

Laura has published a series of articles on theatre censorship in peer-reviewed journals and edited books, and has also published on contemporary German theatre, representations of crime and detection in the GDR, the Turkish-German writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and the poet Kito Lorenc. She co-edited a volume entitled Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity, with Karen Leeder (University of Oxford). It was published in 2011 as volume 5 of the Edinburgh German Yearbook.

Laura is currently working on a monograph entitled Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship. The archive research for the monograph is funded by the British Academy/Carnegie Trust.

Knowledge Exchange

In 2014-15, Laura was Principal Investigator on a collaborative project called 'Who's Watching Who?', funded by the AHRC. Laura worked with the award-winning playwright Peter Arnott and the ex-BBC film maker Susan Kemp to engage wider public audiences with her research on the GDR. Peter wrote a new play called ENSEMBLE, and the development process was opened up to the public through Peter's blog and a series of eight public events, including rehearsed readings of three different drafts. Susan  made a documentary film called WRITING ENSEMBLE, shot on location in Berlin, Dresden, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. It has been shown at the Glasgow Film Theatre, Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Hyde Picture House in Leeds, as well as at other screenings in Edinburgh.

The precursor to this project was a two-day special event at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2011, which Laura co-organised with Susan Kemp and Fiona Rintoul, at their invitation. The event was called 'The Stasi Are Among Us', and it featured 6 film screenings, introduced by the directors Thomas Heise, Claus Löser, Hannes Schönemann, and Rainer Simon. It also included roundtable discussions with the directors and readings of underground literature by the writers Johannes Jansen and Gabriele Stötzer.

In 2011, Laura also worked with the Glasgow-based company Theatre Found on two events on censorship. The first was held at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, during Scottish Refugee Week and featured the Artistic Director of the Belarus Free Theatre. The second was a three-day event at the Forest Fringe, entitled 'Censored. Banned. This Land.'

Laura regularly works with theatre companies on their stagings of Brecht's plays. In 2018, she advised Stuart Nash, Director of the National Performing Arts Studio, Nairobi, on his production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Kenyan National Theatre. In 2014, for example, she contributed to two podcasts for the Unicorn Theatre's production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, which are both available on YouTube. In 2011, Laura also provided academic support for productions of Brecht's Arturo Ui at the Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse and of The Threepenny Opera by Fourth Monkey Theatre in Camden.

During the 20th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Laura gave a public talk on GDR theatre at the University's Informatics Forum. She contributed to a BBC Radio Scotland feature on politics and cabaret (2007), and has worked with the RSC (2006) and Visiting Moon Theatre Company (2001).

External Research Grants

  • British Academy/Carnegie Trust Small Research Grant (2018-20)
  • AHRC Follow-On Funding Award (2014-15)
  • DEFA-Stiftung Grant (2010-11)
  • AHRC Research Leave Award (2009)
  • British Academy Small Research Grant (2006-8)
  • Carnegie Trust Awards (2006, 2009, 2012)
  • DAAD Award (2004)
  • AHRC Studentships (1999-2000, 2000-2003)


  • Prof. Bradley teaches German language and literature to undergraduates at all levels.
  • Her specialisms include an Honours Option on Bertolt Brecht, Gerhart Hauptmann, and poetry written by Brecht, Wolf Biermann and Heiner Müller.
  • At MSc level, she teaches on the MSc in Theatre and Performance.

Research activities & awards

  1. Annual Collinson Lecture in German Studies

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  2. Who's Watching Who? Theatre and Surveillance

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Festival/Exhibition

  3. Unmasking the Stasi: Surveillance in East German Theatre

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

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