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13 Objects
October/November 2003

The secret life of everyday objects as seen through
the eyes of Howard Barker...

A Spade
A Cup and Saucer
A Medal
A Pair of Shoes
A Rattle
A Camera
A Ring
A Painting
A Pair of Spectacles
An Urn
A Postcard
A Bucket
A Drum
13 objects. Everyday. Dull. Mundane.
But what if one was capable of inspiring tears?

Or a great passion? Even a war?

Howard Barker's intriguing play investigates the often profound and intimate connection people can make with objects that, although familiar and mundane in themselves, resonate with memory or inspire powerful emotional feelings.

Even the simplest artefact can acquire enormous psychological and social significance. Here a series of simple items inspire extreme feelings of sorrow, joy, pain, anger, become a site for struggle, a means of independence and servitude, even a substitute for the identity of a human being.

In 13 short self contained plays, powerful poetic language, provocative ideas and rich, dark humour build a compelling and fascinating exploration of the secret lives of everyday objects.

With these simple points of departure, Howard Barker's rich, rewarding text portrays not just a transaction between a person and a thing, the basis of so many brilliant theatrical moments, but describes a culture as seen through the results of an archaeological excavation, and asks what these things meant to people.

13 Objects was directed by Howard Barker. It opened at Birmingham Rep in October 2003 and toured the UK including two weeks in London at Riverside Studios.


13 Objects; Studies in Servitude
Everyone thinks his life should be better than it is. Everyone thinks life itself should be better than it is. This ancient torment produced by the mismatch of hope and reality is the theme of these short plays, where the sense of disappointment is stimulated by mundane objects. On the surface of these ordinary things a spiritual quarrel is enacted. They become the focus of desire and loss; desire for what might have been, despair at what it is. The object mediates the ambition and, whether they are relics of the dead, symbols of sacrifice or simple items imbued with faith or love, they bear immense significance. They become the pretext by which the world is challenged and the detritus of our defeats. We are enslaved by our hopes……

Howard Barker

Photos on this page by Robert Workman

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