Helen Iball

Crossing Borders 2013 | Talk Description | 22 October 2013

Helen Iball is concerned with the idea of theatre as a means of relating to strangers, investigating choreographies of empathy.

“Being invited to contribute to Crossing Borders offers a great opportunity to shift perspective on my current research, which focuses on theatre as a means of relating to strangers. In order to make this shift, I will investigate choreographies of empathy (a reading of Susan Leigh Foster’s Choreographing Empathy, 2011) by considering acts of courtesy, generosity and compassion staged in theatre and live art. Exploring these acts particularly in terms of movement and pause, I’d like to begin a conversation in response to examples ranging across contemporary performer-audience dynamics including: Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, Ellie Harrison and Jay Kearney’s The Reservation, Robert Holman’s Rafts and Dreams, Adrian Howells’ The Pleasure of Being: Washing, Feeding, Holding and Chris Thorpe and Hannah Jane Walker’s The Oh Fk Moment.”


Helen launched the research project Theatre Personal: Audiences with Intimacy in 2009, with published outcomes to-date in Contemporary Theatre Review, Performing Ethos, Critical Live Art and Performing Site-Specific Theatre. Dialogue and workshop collaboration with practitioners is fundamental to her recent publications on Bobby Baker, Tim Crouch and Adrian Howells. Whilst her longstanding interests are in contemporary British theatre, the trans-disciplinary span of Helen’s work has expanded with her interest in the therapeutic potential of ‘interactive’ theatre, which her current project explores in relation to empathy and compassion. Helen teaches at the Workshop Theatre at the School of English at the University of Leeds.