Action Hero is the collaboration between artists Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse. Together we create artworks that expand across multiple creative practices: performance, installation, sound, digital practice and work for public space. Our ongoing interests lie in the iconography of popular culture and its use; both as a weapon and as a shared cultural memory and the languages/texts that are used to talk about these shared spaces. We’ve toured our work to over 40 countries across 5 continents.

Action Hero is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation 2018-23. We are members of artist collectives Residence, The Brunswick Club and are long-time collaborators of Forest Fringe. We live in Bristol, UK but can usually be found on the road.

We have been working together since 2005 in what we describe as a ‘life-long creative practice’. Our work is always engaged with how people meet in the live moment, and how human-to-human exchange takes place within the frame of an artwork. Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do; sometimes that collaboration is between us, or with other artists, or with audiences and participants. Some of our work happens in public space, some happens in theatres or galleries, some you might encounter through a screen. We regularly work with processes and mediums with which we are unfamiliar, which often sees us navigating through new technical and creative territories. We regularly support other artists via formal and informal mentoring and more recently via Action Hero’s Fellowships and our You Can Be My Wingman retreat.

Our long-form collaborative partnership has taken us to more than 40 countries across Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Australia and to places as diverse as PS122 in New York, Theatre De La Ville in Paris, 21st Century Museum in Japan, an abandoned art deco cinema in Bangkok and a Satan’s Riders Motorcycle Clubhouse in Tasmania.

We won an Austin (Texas) Critic’s Table Award for Best Touring Show, and were shortlisted for the 2016 Anti Festival International Prize for Live Art. We have two books published by Oberon, and have written essays for several more, including the 21st Century Performance Reader. We’ve taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level as visiting lecturers at several UK universities, and have led master classes world-wide.

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”


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

Time Out

︎︎︎ Action Hero’s Ethical Policy
︎︎︎ Action Hero’s Board