The Puppet Made Me Do It. The Uncanny and the Grotesque in Puppetry

Puppets are inherently uncanny, but why? This talk will explore links between puppets and the visceral, the uncanny, and the grotesque. Perhaps an uncanny response is on a sliding scale, specific to each spectator. From moments that make one’s hair stand on end and heart palpate in terror to the conscious recognition of the uncanny little doll brought to life on stage. Some people find any type of puppet manipulated into life to be uncanny while others need the puppet to be disturbingly human looking in features, movement, colour, texture, shape, and size before they will admit to a sense of the grotesque or unnerving. Over many centuries the puppet’s journey from spiritual, magical and/or religious object of anima to becoming the ‘low’ cousin of so-called proper theatre, the target of ridicule and unfairly diminished to the realm of kids’ stuff, has taken those of us in Western secular society further away than ever from the uncanny experience that is the possibility of a psychic and magical encounter with puppets. From the “ensouling” (Nielson. 2001,33), of statues in a sacred grotto to the grotesquery of the uncanny brought to life through puppetry, and onto political protest through animation of effigy and statue.


Dr. Emily LeQuesne is a dramaturg, theatre maker, writer, and lecturer. She received her doctorate from Bath Spa University, focussing on puppetry and dramaturgy. She has presented her research on dramaturgy, the uncanny, and puppet theatre, sometimes individually and sometimes all together in the UK, USA, and Austria. She teaches her dramaturgy system The Mosaic Scale online. For over 20 years she has written, directed and dramaturged projects in cabaret, theatre, puppetry, and applied theatre. She is co-founder of Croon productions puppet company. Emily has worked extensively as a performance lecturer in FE & HE and for the educational provision of theatres. She currently teaches playwriting at City of Bath college.

Her book: 1000 Ways to Ask Why. An Introduction to Dramaturgical Thinking is forthcoming from Routledge.

Curated & Hosted by

Marguerite Johnson is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality and gender, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Queensland, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

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17th October 2024 8:00 pm - 09:30 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

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