It's All Allowed (Book)

The Performances of Adrian Howells

It's All Allowed, edited by Deirdre Heddon and Dominic Johnson, is the first book devoted to Adrian Howells's remarkable achievements and legacy. Contributors here testify to the methodological, thematic and historiographical challenges posed by Howells' performances.

Winner of the TaPRA prize for Editing 2017 

Series: Intellect Live


Adrian Howells (1962–2014) was one of the world’s leading figures in the field of one-to-one performance practice – the act of staging an event for one audience participant at a time. Developed over more than a decade, Howells’s award-winning work demonstrated not only his enduring commitment to this genre of performance, but also his determination to find new challenges and innovations in performance art, 'intimate theatre' and socially engaged art.

Its All Allowed, edited by Deirdre Heddon and Dominic Johnson, is the first book devoted to Howells’s remarkable achievements and legacy. Contributors here testify to the methodological, thematic and historiographical challenges posed by Howells’ performances. Citing his permissive mantra as its title, Its All Allowed includes new writing from leading scholars and artists, as well as writing by Howells himself, an extensive interview, scores and visual materials, which together reveal new insight into Howells’s groundbreaking process.

Deirdre Heddon is professor of contemporary performance practice at the University of Glasgow and the author of numerous books, including Autobiography and Performance. She is also one of the editors of It's All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells, which is part of the Intellect Live series published in collaboration with the Live Arts Development Agency (LADA).

Dominic Johnson is a senior lecturer in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University of London and the editor of Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey and It's All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells. 

'The judges felt that the collection was an intimate response to Howells’s work, but one that is also a profound meditation on the potential effects of performance itself. Carefully curated with a significant eye to detail, the volume draws together essays written by a diverse selection of contributors who have used a range of forms (critical, impressionistic, interview, etc), but nevertheless sustains a consistency of argument, message, and voice, supported by an introduction which weaves together the different contributions that comprise the volume with new material and extensive references. This labour of love is a critical volume that will be useful to readers; it is also a beautiful object in its own right'.

Dee Heddon and Dominc Johnson win the TaPRA prize for Editing 2017

'The publication is a not just equally fascinating and important; for those wanting to engage in acts of intimate performance, it’s possibly the most comprehensive reference book available.'

Jo Verrent, The Huffington Post

'It is not just a celebration of an extraordinary body of work but also a handbook for those working in the tricky, ethically fraught area of intimate performance.'

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

'This is an informative and engaging introduction and a thorough survey of the life and work of this important British performer and artist, who was one of the leading, internationally-recognised figures in one-to-one performance practice. While this is a significant contribution to the field of theatre and performance studies due to the accomplished documentation of this most ephemeral and fleeting performance practice, it is also an invaluable resource for practitioners, researchers, and students interested in performance art, Live Art, intimate and immersive theatre, autobiographical performance, and socially engaged and participatory art. The book offers fascinating new insights into Howells’s creative working practices and artistic processes and is thus particularly interesting for those seeking expert knowledge on the particular methodologies, pedagogies, and issues surrounding one-to-one work. It is therefore both a legacy project and a comprehensive handbook for anyone interested in creating intimate performance, and will be equally attractive to readers familiar with Howells’s work and those who are encountering it for the first time.'

Antje Hildebrandt, Contemporary Theatre Review

'Copiously illustrated with colour photographs, the book is leavened with personal accounts and tributes to Howells, my favourite being that of Marcia Farquhar, whose pyjamas were turned into a muddy-coloured mess during a performance of Adrienne’s Dirty Laundry Experience (2005). Johnson and Heddon also include scholarly articles that address the structure and psychological impact of one-to-one performances (Heddon, Helen Iball and Rachel Zerihan), the documentation of the intimate encounter (Jon Cairnes), the implications of Howells’s affective labour in a neo-liberal economy (Stephen Greer), and a compelling discussion of the medieval and Christological history of the foot/sole in Howells’s best-known performance, Footwashing for the Sole (Kathleen Gough). The entire book is framed by an excellent introduction that situates Howells’s work in relationship with relational aesthetics, immersive performance, dialogical aesthetics and the politics of feminine/queer labour. Mindful of the audience that would not be familiar with Howells’s work, the editors included a biographical survey of Howells’s oeuvre that spanned his beginning in high school to his final performance, Lifeguard.'

Jennie Klein, Theatre Research International

'This sumptuous book more than fulfils its editors’ aspirations for it to be ‘filled with textures, colours, emotions, and aesthetics’. It gathers a huge body of writing by and about performer Adrain Howells who made a professional journey from early training and working in traditional professional theatre to later more exploratory performance work that pushed boundaries and made huge demands on the artist who created it. '

Alison Jeffers, New Theatre Quarterly

'It’s All Allowed is an intensely personal selection of recollections, observations, and heartfelt attempts to introduce a new audience to Howells and his work and to offer a collective memorialization for those who knew him. For readers outside of performance studies and visual art, there are several points of entry that offer enough universality in terms of the potential for shared experiences to make it accessible. For artists who use one-to-one performance in their own work, this book is an excellent reference for what to consider when constructing new forms of intimate engagement with the public, as well as the potential risks and rewards for creators and their audiences.'

Lisa Newman, CAA Reviews

'It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells aims to be the definitive book on Howells—not just for scholars, but for artists and arts patrons, too. It bursts with color photographs of Howells and with anecdotes about him, but it also features a thorough bibliography, a good-enough index, and many scanned documents from his personal archive at the University of Glasgow.'

Christopher Grobe
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