Physical theatre is a genre of theatrical performance that pursues storytelling through primarily physical means. Several performance traditions all describe themselves as "physical theatre", but the unifying aspect is a reliance on physical motion of the performers rather than or combined with text to convey the story. In basic sense, you talk through hand gestures, body language, thought track and many more physical features. Dympha Callery suggests that all physical theatre shares some common characteristics although each individual performance need not exhibit all such characteristics to be defined as physical theatre. Her research into the training or "work" of physical theatre artists cites an amalgamation of numerous elements adopted as a means to further inform the theatrical research/production.
These elements include: ●
Devised origins, rather than originated from a preexisting script
Interdisciplinary origins it crosses between music, dance, visual art as well as theatre Challenging the traditional, proscenium arch
, and the traditional performer/audience relationship (also known as
"breaking the fourth wall"
Encouraging audience participation. It can mean any thing that is done physically through a performance.
Some practitioners, such as Lloyd Newson, express a resistance to this term because they feel that physical theatre is used as a "miscellaneous" category, which is classified for anything that does not fall neatly into a category of literary dramatic theatre or contemporary dance. For this reason, contemporary theatre including postmodern performance, devised performance, visual performance, and postdramatic performance, while having their own distinct definitions, are often simply labelled "physical theatre" without any reason other than because they are unusual in some way.
It is also problematic that dance is of a theatrical nature. A dance piece will be called
"physical theatre" because it includes elements of spoken word, character, or narrative; it is theatrical and physical but does not necessarily share anything in common with a potential
(and nascent) physical theatre tradition.
Modern physical theatre has grown from a variety of origins.
and theatrical clowning schools, such as
L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, have had a big influence on many modern expressions of physical theatre. Practitioners such as
John Wright received their initial training at such institutions.
Dance has also had a strong influence on what we regard as physical theatre, partly because most physical theatre requires actors to have a level of physical control and flexibility. Those qualities are rarely found in those who do not have some sort of movement background.
Modern physical theatre also has strong roots in more ancient traditions such as
dell'arte and some suggest links to the ancient greek theatre
, particularly the theatre of
Another tradition started with the very famous French master
Etienne Decroux (father of corporeal mime
). Decroux's aim was to create a theatre based on the physicality of the actor allowing the creation of a more metaphorical theatre
. This tradition has grown and corporeal mime is now taught in many major theatrical schools.
, a teacher out of the lineage of
, has this to say about physical theatre: "I think physical theatre is much more visceral and audiences are affected much more viscerally than intellectually. The foundation of theater is a live, human experience, which is different from any other form of art that I know of. Live theatre, where real human beings are standing in front of real human beings, is about the fact that we have all set aside this hour; the sharing goes in both directions. The fact that it is a