Physical Theatre – is it still radical?

Holly B @ Hinckley College got in touch to ask some questions about Physical Theatre for her dissertation, here are some responses to her questions


HB: Do I view physical theatre to be a contemporary and new idea?

OS: As a genre of work referenced by academics and study books it has a time period when it started to emerge as a term and with some key artists who have led new forms of work all of which you can read up on. I don’t know how useful it is as a term and some artists like Lloyd Newson (DV8) do not use it. So I think your question needs unpicking a little – what do you mean by physical theatre?

As you think about this question here are a couple of links of other interviews which will give some contexts


HB: so these are the questions I would like answered for my research

Define what physical theatre means to you?

OS: I saw what you did there ; ) you didn’t answer my question what does physical theatre mean to you, but have given it back to me! however it is an important one for you to address as it is a shifting term used by some and disowned by others and your definition would direct my responses. You can get back to me…

Physical Theatre to me is a generic term which loosely holds together certain practices and theatre styles and artists who make works. It is not a hugely useful term beyond this as all theatre is inherently physical, with many layers of meaning communicated through a body on stage, with text and music laying parallel to, or contrasting what the body is communicating in the space. Physical Theatre also has no edges – who’s in the bracket and whos out? What happens when an artist makes a work in a different medium – say film? What happens if a film of a theatre piece you might call physical theatre is made is it still physical theatre? so i prefer to use Theatre.

HB: In what way has physical theatre inspired you in the past?
OS: I have been inspired by many artists (and their companies) who I have worked with or seen their work over the years which includes Lloyd Newson – DV8, Liam Steel – Stan Won’t Dance, Amit Lahav – Gecko, Vim Vanderkybus – Ultima Vez, Kev Finnan – Motionhouse, who used to refer to his work as dance theatre) to name a few. I could comfortably include these in a ‘physical theatre’ bracket

HB: Do you believe physical theatre has become more of a popular theatre movement in the past few years?
OS: What do you mean by a popular theatre movement?

Some define ‘popular theatre’ as peoples’ theatre, speaking to the common man in his language and idiom and dealing with problems of direct relevance to his situation, or  The ‘popular’ in popular theatre implies that the process of making and showing a theatre piece is owned and controlled by a specific community. So has participatory activity at its core. Do you mean this?

HB: Do you see more physical theatre in mainstream media now?  (e.g. television, internet, film)
OS: Artists (including those above) communicate in many mediums using film, internet video, site specific etc. Is this still physical theatre?

HB: Do you believe there is a higher audience demand for physical theatre now then there has been in previous years?
OS: I can’t answer this as it is a question for venues.

HB: Do you believe that physical theatre still pushes boundaries and is a new/innovative idea?
OS: Every new piece by an artist will push boundaries, being a new work and so devised and or innovative in some way, tackle or comment on current issues. It is what we do as artists. (Take Stan Won’t Dance’s work ‘Babel’ as an example) However I think your question is more about is there still the same sense of radicalism in the current work of Ultima Vez ‘what the body does not remember’ (made 30 years ago and recently revived) or Lloyd Newson ‘dead dreams and monochrome men’ as when they first presented their pieces is hard to say, their practice has moved on and so has the world – there was no internet and the video camera was in its infancy; gay rights movement was a less strong movement and this piece added to the call for change. The theatrical form has evolved and the boundaries and issues are now in new places.

Have fun checking out the artists and the works I reference…

Oliver Scott

Posted on May 19, 2015 in latest news, Uncategorized

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