Performing Arts

Dr. Petronilla Whitfield

Associate Professor - Voice & Acting – Acting

Associate Professor, PhD in Arts Education (Warwick University), Supervising Research Degrees (SEDA ) University of the Arts London, Masters Degree in Voice Studies (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama), Drama Diploma (Arts Educational) , Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Certificate for Teaching English to Adults (CELTA)


Petronilla trained as an actress at Arts Educational Schools. She was a professional actress for over twenty years. Acting career: Petronilla  began her acting career at The Space Theatre, one of the first multi-racial theatre companies in South Africa  where she worked for two years playing leading roles, and then returned to England and  joined the acting company at the Young Vic Theatre in London. Petronilla was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, acting at the Donmar Warehouse and Aldwych Theatres in London’s West End, a member of the Peter Hall Company in Tennessee William’s play ‘The Rose Tattoo’  directed by Sir Peter Hall in the West End, played in ‘School for Scandal’  at the Theatre Royal Haymarket at Leicester Square in the  West End, London directed by John Barton. She played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Oxford Arts Centre. Petronilla has also worked at Greenwich Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Crucible Theatre Sheffield, York Theatre Royal, Manchester Forum Theatre, Edinburgh’s Lyceum. She toured internationally with Ken Campbell and  Brian Aldiss in ‘Science Fiction Blues’ . On television, she played the role of Galina in ‘Grusko’ with the BBC, filmed in Russia,’ Urban Jungle’ (BBC), ‘Murder Unearthed’ (BBC) worked with comedian Julian Clary in ‘Terry and Julian’, (Channel 4) comedian Harry Enfield in ‘The Harry Enfield Show’, (Hat Trick Productions). Petronilla has also appeared in radio plays and adverts.

Teaching career (summary): In 2001, Petronilla gained a Master’s Degree in Voice Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and a PhD in Arts Education from Warwick University (2015). She  has taught voice and acting at the leading drama schools in London; Mountview Theatre Academy, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and East 15 Acting School (Essex University). She has also taught voice and acting at Bath Spa University, Bristol University and University of the West of England. Petronilla has taught Voice and Acting  at the AUB since 2006.

Teaching Award: In 2017,Petronilla was awarded the Silver Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Award for her work and research  in supporting dyslexic acting students.

University Orator: Petronilla has the role of university orator, delivering the speeches at the Student Graduation Ceremonies since 2014, and at the Ceremony for the Installation of Professor Sir Christopher Frayling at the Arts University in 2014.

Petronilla serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Applied Arts and Health (JAAH) and the AUB Creative Pedagogies on-line journal as a founding member.

Professional practice

Having been a professional actress for over twenty years I have a specialism in Acting and Performance. Having completed a PhD on the subjects of actor training in Shakespeare and dyslexia, I have gained an extensive  knowledge in those areas. I have a particular interest in the scholarship of learning and teaching in actor training, especially in the support of acting students with dyslexia. I have an expertise in Shakespeare, and the acting and teaching of Shakespeare, which has been built over many years. I was a professional actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, working with the leading directors, voice coaches and actors, taught by Royal Shakespeare practitioners during my Voice MA at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.  I have a specialism in Voice training, possessing an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I teach voice production and development, articulation, phonetics, accent study, communication and presentation technique, and expressive voice. I have taught audition techniques and acting pieces for several years at the AUB and East 15 and Central School of Speech and Drama I teach the academic writing and research for Professional Contexts unit. I have also taught Psychological Realism and Contemporary theatre acting units at the Arts University, and at Bath Spa University and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I also have the role of university orator and deliver the speeches at Graduation ceremonies and other important events.

Professional memberships

  • British Dysleixa Association (2016–2017)
  • Brisitsh Educational Research Association (2016–2019)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the International Centre for Voice, a research and knowledge centre based at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London University)
  • British Shakespeare Association
  • Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA)


  • Silver Award for the AUBRIETA Recognition for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Award 2018 (2018)
  • Learning and Teaching Award of £3,000 (2009)


  • Learning and Teaching Award. for creating my computer tool 'Sensing Shakespeare'. Awarded a ‘Teaching and Learning Development Award’ of £3,000 from the Arts University College to develop an interactive media tool for dyslexic actors in Shakespearean acting (2009)
  • Award of £4,000 plus financial assistance from the British Actors' Equity Union for my MA in Voice Studies at Central School of Speech and Drama. This grant is only given to those with 10 years experience as a professional actor. (2000)

Research Specialism

  • Dyslexia and actor training
  • Scholarship of Learning and Teaching in actor training, drawing from diverse philosophies of education, making strategies explicit
  • Constructivism in teaching, reading and acting
  • Shakespeare and the acting of Shakespeare The technical structure of Shakespeare’s writing, expressed through the voice, body and speech
  • The use of Stanislavski’s Actions, Michael Chekov’s Psychological Gesture
  • Research methodologies such as action research,  case study, practice as research
  • Embodied cognition and comprehension of the text
  • Making meaning through gesture and drawing, drawing as thinking and as an acting methodology
  • Interpretive mnemonics
  • The transactional construction of meaning between reader, text  and author
  • Storytelling –  narrative techniques in performance

Research Supervision

I am currently supervising a PhD student  investigating the pedagogical  value of live art in schools

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Research output