Intro to Physical Theatre - DR663

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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5 30 (15)


DRAM3380 Making Performance 1
DRAM3390 Making Performance 2





This module studies different approaches to physical training for performance. It covers examples from around the world, though developments in Europe during the twentieth century provide a focus for the module. The module is oriented towards training for 'physical theatre' – a term which emerged at the end of the twentieth century and refers to a shift away from script, playwright and linear narrative. As such naturalism and the work of Stanislavski do not fall within the remit of this module.

Students will gain valuable practical experience of physical training in weekly workshops where they will explore the fundamental principles of training the body. Indicative areas include:
• Posture, centre, balance, energy, space, tension, relaxation, sound within the body.
• Precision and clarity in movement
• Presence, spontaneity and improvisation
The module makes elementary investigations into the relationship between training and performance composition, an aspect which will be further explored in Physical Theatre 2.

Practice will be contextualised by historical and theoretical reading that explores the landscape from which the term 'Physical Theatre' emerged in the twentieth century. Key historical figures include: Jacques Copeau, Antonin Artaud, Edward Gordon Craig, Jerzy Grotowski, Eugenio Barba, and Jacques Lecoq, among others. Grotowski's term 'Poor Theatre’ is a crucial starting point for the module, and we explore how a performer might be prepared for a performance style that focuses so fully on the performer’s body in space, and the demands that come with that style. Eugenio Barba’s ideas about ‘pre-expressivity’ and the study of performer training across different cultures and disciplines are also important.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 72
Private study hours: 228
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Solo Performance (30%)
Written Assessment (3000 words) (40%)
Group Performance (30%).

Indicative reading

Artaud, Antonin, The Theatre and Its Double, Calder and Boyars Ltd, 1970 (original translated publication is trans. Mary Caroline Richards, Grove Press, 1958)
Barba, Eugenio A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology, Routledge, 1991
Grotowski, Jerzy Towards a Poor Theatre,(edited by Eugenio Barba), Methuen, 1976
Hodge, Alison, Actor Training, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2010
Lecoq, Jacques, Theatre of Movement and Gesture, trans. David Bradby, Routledge 2006
Oida, Yoshi, and Marshall, Lorna, The Invisible Actor, Methuen, 1997

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- Develop a practical understanding of the skills required by the physical performer.
- Learn a variety of approaches for training and developing those skills.
- Acquire knowledge of safe and appropriate ways to warm up oneself and a group.
- Develop skills in articulating one's observations of somatic practice both verbally in class and in writing.
- Develop a broad understanding of the theoretical, philosophical and historical context from which Physical Theatre emerged at the end of the twentieth century.
- Develop further insight into the relationship between training and performance.

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