Intro to Physical Theatre - DRAM6630

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 66
Private study hours: 234
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Written Assessment (3000 words) (40%)
Performance 1 (30%)
Performance 2 (30%).

Reassessment methods:
Like for Like

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

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

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Develop a practical understanding of the skills required by the physical performer.
2 Learn a variety of approaches for training and developing those skills.
3. Acquire knowledge of safe and appropriate ways to warm up oneself and a group.
4. Develop skills in articulating one's observations of somatic practice both verbally in class and in writing.
5. Develop a broad understanding of the theoretical, philosophical and historical context from which Physical Theatre emerged at the end of the twentieth century.
6. Develop further insight into the relationship between training and performance.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Undertake autonomous and independent working practices, exercising initiative and personal responsibility and undertake independent research.
2. Demonstrate a range of communication skills through writing, discussion and practice-based work.
3. Work collaboratively in groups, utilising team structures and working methods.
4. Identify health and safety and ethical issues and undertake risk assessments.
5. Reflect on personal learning, identifying strategies for revisions and development.
6. Present coherent arguments verbally and in writing.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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