Action Hero

Action Hero is a collaboration between Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse. Making performances and live art, they are interested in pop cultural mythologies and the creation of temporary communities centred around the live event. Action Hero enjoys using audiences as collaborators and co-conspiritors, and its work often has a sense of the epic, even though it is played out through a lo-fi, DIY approach.

It has developed a reputation for creating performance that is distinctive and invigorating, and has created work for theatres, galleries, public spaces, clubs and parties.

  • Image: Frontman Photographer: Briony Campbell
  • Image: Watch Me Fall Photographer: Sandy Danbury
  • Image: Hoke's Bluff


Hoke's Bluff

  • Duration:
  • People on road: 4
  • Freight: No freight necessary
  • Freight details: Some larger items will need to be locally sourced.


With a nostalgic yearning for the simplicity of a world that never really existed, Hoke’s Bluff meets its audience on the bleachers and tells them an underdog story that’s been told a million times before. By shifting and rearranging the trite narratives of high school storylines and inspiring locker room speeches, Action Hero uses hackneyed formulas and cheap sentimentality to find out what it means to be a winner (on the inside).

The audience are seated in traverse for this performance.

Co-produced by China Plate and Warwick Arts Centre. Co-commissioned by Bristol Old Vic Ferment. Funded by Arts Council England.

Watch Me Fall

  • Duration:
  • People on road: 2
  • Freight: No freight necessary
  • Freight details: If larger props can be locally sourced/made, no freight is necessary.


Set on an 18m long 'runway' for a standing audience, Watch Me Fall is a performance about what people will do to entertain an audience. Homemade stunts are played out in front a crowd who cheer for the performers to go higher, faster and further.

The performance area must be at least 17m long and 3m wide at its widest point, suited to both black box spaces and alternative larger spaces.

Slap Talk

  • Duration:
  • People on road: 2
  • Freight: No freight necessary
  • Freight details: In addition to the excess baggage, 2 gallery monitors (eg: Hantarex) will need to be locally sourced


Inspired by the self-aggrandising of boxers at the pre-fight weigh in, Slap Talk is a verbal sparring match that is both a linguistic version of the fight itself and a reflection on the violence present in everyday language.

Speaking to each other and to the audience via a live feed from a camera to a monitor, the performers rant, insult and threaten each other in a scripted version of a pre-fight press conference crossed with a 24 hour rolling news channel.

Over six hours, an autocue scrolls a continuous barrage of passive aggressive violence of lovers talking, the hard sell of a shopping channel, the anger of the fire and brimstone preacher, the subtle violence of middle class one-upmanship. The audience are free to enter and leave at any time during the performance.

Developed with the support of Caravan and BIOS, Athens. Slap Talk began in The Darkroom, China Plate’s development space for writing and performance.

Wraparound work

Post- and pre- show talks for general audiences as well as students/practitioners.

Longer workshops (at least one full day) for practitioners and students.

Residencies for the development of new work and subsequent work-in-progress showings.

Seminars for artists and practitioners on the setting up of artist-led networks and spaces, based on our work as founder members of Residence (an artist-led independent space and support network in Bristol).

Presentations on creative development for independent artists, from an artist's perspective, for venues and producers.

Press Comments & Testimonials

"Action Hero's work to date has always been generous, accessible and wryly amusing"

Time Out

"Often formally daring...always infectiously entertaining and humorous"

Exuent Magazine

"The fantastic Bristol-based company Action Hero"

The Guardian

"see why this maverick company, with its engaging DIY aesthetic, is attracting so much attention"

 The Guardian

"one of the most interesting new devised theater groups in the UK"

Ough, Greece

« All artists and companies


Artistic Director(s)

Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse

Contact details

Gemma Paintin
Co-artistic director

10 Devon Road

Twitter Feed

@ActionHeroLive RT @InTheDarkRadio: Bristol sound lovers! This looks super cool... ‘Some People Climb Up’ by @SylviaRimat, an audio-walk through Leigh Wood…
(2 days ago)

Reply Retweet Favorite

@ActionHeroLive Filming the Forest Fringe film #FFmakeafilm
(4 days ago)

Reply Retweet Favorite

Sign up to our newsletter