The Watch

The Watch

Six actors, a writer and a theatre director will undertake a training course in infant observation as it is practiced in the training of Child Psychotherapists.

Through this extreme and intense experience this group, assisted by an expert Child Psychotherapeutic Consultant, will research the relationship between these two disciplines (acting and psychoanalysis) and produce a unique piece of theatre based on their discoveries.

Az is proposing to create a partnership between the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Tavistock Clinic.


A proposal for a project by Az Theatre in partnership with London Academy of Dramatic Art and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

Performing Arts and Infant Observation

A group of performing artists, a director and a writer will undertake a 13 week course of infant observation and create a piece of theatre out of the discoveries they make.

What is infant observation?

The technique of infant observation was introduced into the training of child psychotherapists by Esther Bick in the 1940s and has since then featured at different levels of the work of the Tavistock Clinic and other child therapy training institutes.

Its rigorous methodology involves a reflexive psychoanalytic framework.  There would be supervision of the project by a member of the teaching staff at the Tavistock Clinic.

How will The Watch be structured?

For a designated time each week each individual in the participant 'observer' group will spend two separate one-hour sessions observing an infant. Each participant will have a specific infant. These infants will vary in age between the new-born and the four year old. An effort will be made to have a spread of ages in the 'observed' group so that an overall view of the developmental story can be achieved by the whole participant 'observer' group.

The process of finding the infants' families, of gaining their consent and confirming the arrangements for the study will be undertaken by Az Theatre in close collaboration with the participants. By networking within the performing arts professions, through training institutions and professional associations, a group of compatible and understanding 'observed' participants will be created.

The infants will be observed in the course of their everyday life in the home or nursery setting and the observation will be as unobtrusive as possible. Evidently the infant will be observed in her or his relationship to the parent or carer.

The participant will watch what is happening with the infant, will take no notes or use any other recording device, and afterwards will implement a way of logging or recording their observations.

This will be the key activity in a programme which will involve four other weekly sessions.

The participants will meet the consultant teaching psychotherapist for a weekly session. During the course of these sessions participants will be asked to make presentations of their observation work.

They will also have a movement session, a voice session and an acting session.

This weekly timetable will continue for three months.

The relationships that will be developed during this intensive period of observation may involve deep bonds of trust, generosity and gratitude with accompanying feelings of envy and insecurity. Often the relationships struck up during these periods of observation can be the source of substantial benefit to both the observer and the observed. Az Theatre, in collaboration with the training institution with which it has a partnership, will ensure the creation of a culture of understanding and support around the work that will also include the availability of continued communication with all the participants, both observer and observed.

In this way, and through the performance work that will flow from the observations, we will enhance general access to the propositions and skills of infant observation and bring the virtues of infant observation to a wider public.

The three months of observation will be followed by five weeks of rehearsal at the end of which a theatre piece will be presented to the immediate community of carers, parents and specialists.  Thereafter the performance will be available for a more general audience.

This whole process (apart from the observation sessions) will be filmed on video. Both a video film and a book will be published as a document of the process.


- to learn from experiencing the methods of Child Psychotherapy training in the sharpening of actors' observational skills

- to enhance a sense of the role played by observation in the acting process.

- To review the early development of voice and movement in relation to performing art

- to explore the development of character, temperament and emotional life from the point of view of the infant human being

- to create insights into training procedures for actors in relation to training for child psychotherapy

- to explore the role of 'regression' in creative work and in psychotherapeutic training

- to explore the relationship of psychotherapy and performing art

- to bring the methods and values of infant observation to wider public attention


- to create a productive and mutually beneficial partnership between a performing arts training conservatoire and a therapeutic training establishment

- to conduct a project that is exemplary of best practice in all disciplines involved

- to enhance the public perception of the fields of work involved

- to ensure the sensitive and full involvement of the families participating in the project

- to create a culture of understanding and support around the work

- to ensure full documentation of the process

- to collaborate with a documentary film maker to make a film for as wide a distribution as possible.

- to publish a written and photographic record of the work

- to produce a theatre piece based on the process for as wide an audience as possible


This project will draw into the space of theatre an exploration of human capability, need and desire from the perspective of the early development of the human being. It will be a unique high-level collaboration between practitioners from two related but distinct fields of human endeavour.

The Watch is an exploration of our capacity to observe, to recognise the reflexive nature of observation, to develop the discipline of memorising physical and emotional sequences, to develop the skill of presenting this work both in a psychoanalytic and a performing arts framework and to look with greater insight into states of being and the dynamic between inner and outer expression.

In the introduction of Closely Observed Infants (Lisa Miller et al. Gerald Duckworth and Co. 1989) the 'wide political and social relevance' of infant observation is asserted. The Watch will enhance perception of the skills involved and will contribute to a culture which is more 'sensitised to infantile anxiety and pain' (op.cit.).

Similarly, an understanding will be extended of the role of observation and of human development in the performing arts.

Az Theatre is planning to gain the participation of parents to the project by using networks and means of communication within the performing arts professions. This will give the community taking part in the project a cohesiveness that will be beneficial. This will also alleviate the difficulties sometimes experienced by infant observers in finding willing participant families.

Usually infant observation is carried out by people training to be psychotherapists. This means they will be complementing this practice with a study of infant development and of psychotherapy. They will themselves be undergoing a process of therapy. There can be no substitute for the full commitment and the supporting environment of the training. However with judicious care, sensitivity, knowledge and advice these absences can be mitigated and good contact can be made between The Watch and the core culture of the training.

The trainee would normally be engaged in two observation processes over a period of two years. There is danger that the curtailed nature of the observation process that The Watch participants will be undertaking may be so superficial and limited as to make it at worst meaningless or at best partial. The process will clearly be different from the normal practice. However if the terms of the process are clear (to the participants and the parents) and the knowledge of the guiding experts is sensitively brought to bear the process can be positive and beneficial for all.

Also the creative aims of the work will help to provide a supportive context. Though the challenges of coming into contact with strong infantile feelings should not be underestimated it is also true that no true artistic work is without depth, turmoil and struggle. In the work the artist will often reach the limits of their own sense of self-definition in order to move through to insights that arise out of a continuous conversation with the self and consequent self-reflection. More than anything it is the creation of forms in which experiences can be held for which the artist strives.  It is this form-creating activity which will be the principal redeeming feature of the values which will grow around the project.

Jonathan Chadwick  14th November 2008
Az Theatre
55 Windsor Road
London N7 6JL
+44 (0) 20 7263 9807