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27 May 20217:00 pm – 8:30 pm

A Space in Between: Repairing Breast Cancer Narratives

‘A Space in Between’ is a performance installation conceived and created by theatre maker Lori Delaney. It uses physical, photographic and media documentation to represent ‘biographical disruption’ through the lived experience of breast cancer treatment. It explores the possibility of repairing breast cancer narratives – and the potentially unhelpful and pervasive survivor narrative – through performance art.

Following the premiere of the filmed installation, Lori will lead a discussion and audience Q&A with Claire Collison, Dr Emily Underwood-Lee, and Dr Sara Macdonald, established practitioners and thinkers on the intersection of women’s health, representation and storytelling. Both Claire and Emily have explored cancer narratives in their work and will discuss examples of their practice here.

An optional half-hour slot for informal conversation, hosted by Lori, will be available to participants following the event.

Presented by the University of Glasgow’s School of Culture & Creative Arts as part of its 2020/21 programme on the theme of ‘Arts of Repair’.



Lori Delaney is a Theatre Maker and Performance Artist with 10 years professional practice experience, facilitating drama workshops in teaching and professional environments. Lori returned to education as a mature student and has just finished her Masters (2019) in Theatre and Performance Practices at University of Glasgow. Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer weeks into her MLitt programme which steered her practice toward autobiography, exploring how autobiographical theatre can translate real experiences of lived experience to disrupt dominant breast cancer discourse, which is usually ‘upbeat’. Lori will extend this work into PhD study, which she will start in October at University of Glasgow.

Claire Collison is a writer, artist and educator, whose work spans photography, poetry, performance, installation, and participatory events. She frequently uses herself in her practice, and makes work around identity, women, health and representation. Recent works have focused on her experience of electing not to have reconstructive surgery, following a mastectomy, and include ‘Intimate Tours of Breasts’ in cities across Britain, and performing her single-breasted life-modelling monologue, ‘Truth Is Beauty’ in venues ranging from pop-up shops to the Ministry of Justice.

Dr Emily Underwood-Lee is Associate Professor of Performance Studies, University of South Wales. Her research focuses on contemporary feminist performance, autobiographical performance, and first person narratives in a variety of contexts including performance and the maternal and storytelling in health. She is co-convener of the Storytelling for Health conference and a member of the steering group of the Wales Arts, Health, and Wellbeing Network. She co-edited the ‘On the Maternal’ special edition of Performance Research (2017) and the ‘Storytelling for Health’ special edition of Storytelling, Self, Society (2019). Her forthcoming book Maternal Performance: Feminist Relations, co-authored with Dr Lena Šimić, is due for publication by Palgrave in 2021.

Dr Sara Macdonald is a primary care based social scientist with an interest in the public understanding of cancer risk. Over many years Sara’s research has explored how cancer narratives are created and reinforced and importantly how these narratives shape our responses to cancer, particularly in the period before cancer diagnosis.


Biographical disruption entails the unsettling of the fabric of one’s life, when illness leads to a ‘radically disturbed’ sense of self (Trusson, Pilnick, Roy, 2016). Building on her previous performance work, Lori Delaney draws on documentation to explore her own experience of chemotherapy, focussing on the time constructs which characterise a treatment cycle. This is extended to address the disruptive impact on the patient and their associated memories which can only be experienced retrospectively.

Lori herself is physically present in the final section of the work, which explores retrospective time and ‘liminality’, a term that medical sociologists regard as an ‘acute part’ of the experience of living with a cancer diagnosis (Little et al., 1998). Liminality denotes a state of uncertainty, where one never fully moves on and feels unable to communicate the experience of their illness: with a majority remaining deeply affected by it for the rest of their lives (Little et al., 1998). The experience of liminality is grounded in the changing body that houses both the illness and the self. The installation aims to convey this through the presence of Lori’s own body in the theatre space where the participant is confronted with the past and present simultaneously.