Physical theatre  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Physical theatre is used to describe any mode of performance that pursues storytelling or drama through primarily and secondarily physical and mental means. There are several quite distinct but indistinct traditions of performance which all describe themselves using the term "physical theatre", which has led to a lot of confusion as to what the definition of physical theatre actually is. The means of expression, seem to be primarily physical rather than textual, often with emphasis on musical elements. Several things that many of these various Physical Theatre traditions share is a collaborative devising approach to theatrical development and creation: various groups , such as DV8, Frantic Assembly and the Forced Entertainment all use differing but nonetheless devising-based processes.

Some analysts believe that physical theatre was influenced by Bertolt Brecht. Dympha Callery suggests that despite the problematic use of the definition of physical theatre, some common characteristics may occur - though she stresses that these examples should not be seen as either exhaustive or that all are necessary all the time.

These include:

  • Work is often devised, rather than originated from a pre-existing script (an exception to this would be the troupe Shared Experience, which focuses on making contemporary reinterpretations of highly literary plays including A Doll's House by Ibsen and War and Peace by Tolstoy).
  • Work has inter-disciplinary origins - it crosses between music, dance, visual art as well as theatre.
  • Work challenges the traditional, proscenium arch, performer/audience relationship.
  • Work celebrates the non-passive audience.
  • Work utilises the imagination of the audience in conjunction with the imagination of the performers.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Physical theatre" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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