What is physical theatre today and did it ever really mean anything?

Convener(s): Tamsin Shasha

Participants: Bruno, Darren, Duncan Brown, Alice Booth, James Albrecht, Willy, Dick McCraw, Rachel, Katherine, Veronica, TV, Rob, Sophie

Physical Theatre Definitions

  • Non naturalistic
  • Stylized
  • Body says more than words
  • Truth comes through body
  • Physicality is a part of what we do, everything is physical
  • It is awareness through movement
  • Consensus that physical theatre is a redundant, even derogatory term
  • The term Physical theatre is so non-specific that it no longer has meaning, all theatre should be total.
  • It is society’s way of pigeonholing theatre into something predictable and easy to digest. It can be a visceral experience.
  • It is a dangerous term that should be moved on from.
  • Non text based theatre is perhaps a better term for Physical Theatre.
  • The term physical theatre was useful at first, but is now outdated.
  • Is physical theatre a youth movement?
  • The most important thing in theatre is truth
  • Can you develop stage presence through physical theatre?
  • Actors who have no acting talent can do incredible things with their physicality, conversely actors with physical talent, but nothing within can be entirely uncompelling onstage.
  • Physical theatre creates excitement at the possibility of using movement to become a fuller performer.
  • Interminable weather of the performer.
  • Outdoor theatre, and site specific work lends itself to physical theatre; the physical space is suited to this type of work. 
  • Accessibility underpins physical theatre; the average non-theatre goer is more able to relate to something physical and visual. Physicality combined with language is a way of speaking to people.

  • Physicality should be used as a tool in the same way actors use their voice as a tool. They are the only two instruments an actor has, so be a virtuoso in both.
  • We’ve misunderstood what physical theatre is; its about getting to a deeper place within ourselves. “The floor is your first Zen master”.
  • In the West we have an actor led tradition; where the start system rules, and plays are centered around one star, and the rest doesn’t matter. Whereas in European theatre, especially Grotowski and Polish theatre (Gardzienice) is about the ensemble, and military dedication to training and your art form. It becomes fundamental and a way of life.
  • Physicality is an intrinsic part of Polish theatre making.
  • Using exhaustion as a tool to tap into creative truth is important, and the best work is produced when exhaustion is a factor. Saratoga International uses this technique, so that when actors are vomiting with fatigue, only then can the most sensitive material surface.
  • Physical training should be much more included in theatre schools.