Foundations for Object Theatre

Lead Research Organisation: Nottingham Trent University
Department Name: Sch of Art and Design


Object theatre involves the manipulation of objects to give them life, a reciprocal play between the performer and the object. It imbues objects and props with significant meanings, implying that it is not only a style of theatre but also a method. There are different levels of object theatre. A basic example is the manipulation of a spoon to make it into a character. An advanced example would be floating paper becoming 'lost thoughts'.

The term 'Object Theatre' is comparatively new with much object theatre practice dating from the early 1980s work by such pioneers as Paul Zaloom and Christian Carignon. There is real interest in its methods and it is increasingly being used in contemporary practice in performance, community arts, dance and puppetry. However, as yet, there has not been a platform for rigorous intellectual exchange between practitioners, industry professionals and academics to provide a solid theoretical grounding for object theatre as its own discipline.

Theories are emerging, from different countries, in both its teaching and practice. Our networking opportunity will provide a unique opportunity for 3 of the first generation of practitioners to share their understandings and methods with academics, PhD students and industry practitioners, with the aim of establishing a foundation for research into object theatre. Practitioners from different continents will provide a cross-cultural perspective on the history and methodology of object theatre. We will look at the use of object theatre across disciplines in drama, performance and the visual arts, and use this research to discuss how theory can inform teaching practice.

Articles will be published in journals read by a wide audience, as well as in a peer-reviewed journal. We will sustain the network via an object theatre website, new contacts between participants, and the dissemination of articles.

Planned Impact

Those benefiting from this work include:

The PI and CO-I.
A group of selected industry professionals.
International theorists and performers in object theatre.
An interdisciplinary professional and academic community (through published outputs and website).
15 BA and MA students and 2 PhD Students.
A broad spectrum of the public, from A-level students to theatre audiences (through the website).

Key benefits include:

An enhanced understanding of the interdisciplinary aspect of object theatre and the first attempt, through network and discussion, to formulate core methodologies and pedagogic practice in relation to its emergence as key practice in contemporary performance. The dissemination of clear methodologies for object theatre that can be employed by a range of academic staff and students across disciplines and a wider community of performance professionals. It will also be of benefit to a wider public, e.g. schools, FE and HE institutions.

Improving the skills of performance professionals and students, generating a unique discursive platform for academics and practitioners to clarify the techniques of object theatre for future researchers and performers.

A potential aid in the further development of established courses and the creation of new ones. This is particularly relevant to the UK where currently only one university, The Central School of Speech and Drama, has a course on object theatre. Nottingham Trent University starts a new MA in Puppetry and Digital Animation this year (co-developed by the PI).

An enhanced engagement with theatre as an artistic form - through the public access website the possibilities of object theatre as an accessible, and easily understood across cultural boundaries, medium will be made apparent. Object theatre provides the possibility to understand a genuinely democratised form of performance through everyday things.


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Myatt, S (2013) From Frozen Sponges to Plastic Bags: Object Theatre-a Developing Network in Puppet Notebook Journal article - Special Issue on Object Theatre

Title 'Object if ication' 
Description Work title 'Object if ication' exploring the object and it relationship to the objectification of Dementia patients. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Feedback described at the exhibition was that members of the public felt emotionally moved by the piece, which appeared at Since 1843: In the Making Exhibition (2014) Bonington Gallery Nottingham 
Title Inside Out of Mind, Theatre performance 
Description A play by Tanya Myers exploring dementia care, Meeting Ground and Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham. "Based on rigorous participant observation in dementia wards Inside Out of Mind builds bridges between art and science, old and young, carers and cared-for." Tanya Myers attended our second network event. Sean Myatt consulted on Object Work in the play. This play is part of ongoing workshops, funded by the National Health Trust: see Collaboration for more details. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This work has been made into a film which has been incorporated into the nurses training courses in the UK. 
Description There is still needed further clarity about Object Theatres, origins and methodology. John Bell (part of the research network) has addressed this , in his recent publication :The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance Paperback - 22 May 2015
by Dassia N. Posner (Editor), Claudia Orenstein (Editor), John Bell (Editor)

But there is still needed further dissemination of the findings from the research networks original conference.
Exploitation Route Articles and print. On-line learning and teaching development
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description In development of further bids to the ESRC and HEA Teaching and learning AT Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Doctorate Teaching Secondments to other European institutions (HKU Utrecht) Teaching across multi-disciplinary courses writing/ Theatre in Education and Technical Theatre. Held interviews on National Radio bbc 4 about Object Theatre.
Sector Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural

Description Facilitated object theatre workshop for HKU University of the Arts Utrecht design department students 
Organisation Utrecht University
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Facilitated object theatre workshop for HKU University of the Arts Utrecht design department students. Winter Academy 2014. Object Theatre: An introduction to the 'performing object', through different theatre teaching methods.
Collaborator Contribution Setting up research meetings and assisting in teaching.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2014
Description Object Theatre workshops to train health care assistants in dementia care awareness 
Organisation Arts Council England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Funded by the Arts Council, Nottingham.
Description Objects of Emotion symposium, Wellcome Trust, Saturday 16 June 
Organisation Wellcome Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Live performance and demonstration of techniques in object theatre.
Description Performing Objects Conference, Falmouth University, Cornwall, UK 18-21 October 2013 
Organisation Falmouth University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Currently acting as a consultant to Dr Carolyn Shapiro Wyatt, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Writing and Department of Art & Design University College Falmouth. Dan Watts, my co-i and I also will be presenting a paper at the conference. A number of our research network participants - academics and PHD students - will be attending and/or presenting.
Description Puppet Talk 
Organisation University of Sussex
Department Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A doctoral group meeting to examine the research possibilities of puppetry and object theatre. Chaired by Sally Norman, Professor of Performance Technologies, Director, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.
Description Southern Denmark University Design School. Research and teaching collaboration facilitating and consulting in the use of Object theatre in Design teaching for MA Product and Sociology students 
Organisation Design School Kolding
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution • Southern Denmark University Design School. Research and teaching collaboration facilitating and consulting in the use of Object theatre in Design teaching for MA Product and Sociology students. February 2017
Collaborator Contribution N/A
Impact Working on design for product and sociology students.
Start Year 2017
Description Talking Objects Symposium, Loughborough University March 2012 
Organisation Loughborough University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Talking Objects symposium addressed the current interest in the study of the object across different subject areas such as psychology, philosophy, anthropology and cultural studies, focussing on the use of objects as central to performance in theatre productions. It resulted from research currently being undertaken by Dan Watt, Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University and Sean Myatt, Senior Lecurer at Nottingham Trent University, into the widening of our object theatre network.
Description esearch collaboration & Presentation; the use of Object Theatre in disciplines in design, the visual arts, training, and health and wellbeing. 
Organisation University of Amsterdam
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Amsterdam University of the Arts Academy of Theatre and Dance. Research collaboration & Presentation; the use of Object Theatre in disciplines in design, the visual arts, training, and health and well being. March 2017
Collaborator Contribution N/A
Impact Relational design working with Sarah Kettley. This links to the Internet of Soft Things project funded by EPSRC.
Start Year 2017
Description Object Theatre research network website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact already funded before

materials, transcripts

Furthering a network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Primary Arts Studio Nottingham. Objects and Performance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Primary Arts Studio Nottingham. Objects and Performance, discussion | may 2014
(An increased interest in the role of the object within performance has coincided with a resurgence of the object in a variety of research areas including psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and cultural studies. To explore this subject further Primary have invited Sean Myatt (Senior Lecturer in Theatre Design, Nottingham Trent University) and Daniel Watt (Senior Lecturer in English and Drama, Loughborough University) to discuss their own research in the area of objects, performance and related philosophy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description Research informing teaching practice 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Outcomes in methodology and techniques used in teaching at the following institutions:

(undergraduate, postgraduate courses, taught in multiple disciplines)

Nottingham Trent University

Royal Holloway, London ?

Central School of Speech and Drama, London

Loughborough University

Evergreen College, USA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017