WHO ARE ACTION HERO?

Gemma Paintin & James Stenhouse work under the moniker Action Hero. Together, they create artworks that explore what is it to be human now.  James & Gemma’s long-form, shape-shifting collaboration spans performance, installation, sound, events & social practice. Since 2005, the work Action Hero has created has toured to more than 40 countries across 5 continents; from the smallest DIY and artist-led spaces to some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, galleries and festivals.

Action Hero create structures for people to experience alternative ways of being together. From stage to page to audio to immersive interaction, the company’s work and process is nomadic, mercurial and led by a desire to approach the world differently. Moving between forms, the work of Action Hero feels totally familiar yet completely unknowable at the same time, embracing mystery, complexity and holding human connection at its heart. Read our alternative biog here.


Independence is at the centre of the company’s ethos. Alongside collaboration and a commitment to artist-led methodologies, Action Hero believes in the power of art and creativity to give shape to the human experience. These values extend outward into every area of the artists’ work, informing both the artworks themselves but also the ways in which Action Hero aims to move through the world and show up in its communities, with its audiences and alongside colleagues and collaborators.

As well as extensive international touring to both critical and popular acclaim, Action Hero has been shortlisted for the Live Art Prize, a Total Theatre award, two OFFIES and won a Critics Table award for Best Touring Show. They have received grants from British Council, European Cultural Foundation, WECA, Caravan, High Commission of Canada and Arts Council England amongst others, and have been awarded residencies, fellowships and commissions worldwide. Between 2018-2023, they were a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England, paving the way for a new wave of artist-led companies to enter the portfolio. Action Hero’s work features on university curricula across the UK and internationally, and the artists regularly teach masterclasses at undergrad and postgrad level. They have published two books and contributed to several more, including the seminal 21st Century Performance Reader. They are Forest Fringe associate artists and members of artist collectives Residence and The Brunswick Club.


Action Hero is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no: 11182822

Who we are?


Gemma Paintin: co-artistic director
James Stenhouse: co-artistic director


“some of the most thrilling work currently being produced in the UK”

The Guardian

“Action Hero is to theatre what Sonic Youth was to music”

Culturebot

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN A SHOW BY THESE ARTISTS THAT DIDNT MAKE YOU SIT UP A LITTLE STRAIGHTER AND WANT TO PEER A LITTLE MORE CLOSELY” 

Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor

“at the forefront of independent organisations whose practice embraces performance as well as installation, digital and sound works”

The stage

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

Time Out


︎︎︎ Action Hero’s Ethical Policy
︎︎︎ A mythology of AH