Theatre is a physical and visual medium, but the play's not always the thing. There is a strand of theatre - the physical and the visual - that speaks a completely different language from the traditional well made play and spans theatre, puppetry, dance and visual arts. This work uses the language of gesture, an area of theatre that in the past was dubbed mime and thought of as entirely silent. Nowadays such pieces frequently include spoken text, but the body speaks as eloquently as the voice, and one of the great strengths of this form is that it can often mine the emotions that fall in the silences between words. Much of this work is devised not scripted, and although many of the UK companies working in this area have been influenced by European traditions, increasing numbers of young companies are developing their own distinct and excitingly high voltage styles.
-Lyn Gardner, The Guardian (UK)
Let's Get Physical
Physical theatre (or living theatre) exists at the intersection of the performing arts. It draws on traditions that are universal and blends techniques, styles and themes across a spectrum of theatre, movement, and gestural art.
-The School of Physical Theatre (UK)
What Can Physical Theatre Be:
Physical and visual elements can be at least equal to verbal elements – using theatre as more than an aural medium – going beyond verbal narrative
Can be more than simply abstract movement – possibilities include: discernible characters, relationships and interaction between performers.
Something narrative can happen, not necessarily linear or obvious
Diversity of style, approach, aesthetics – can include dance-theatre, movement theatre, clown, puppetry, mime, etc.
(This) work is about taking risks, aesthetically and physically, about breaking down the barriers between dance, theatre and personal politics and, above all, communicating ideas and feelings clearly and unpretentiously. It is determined to be radical yet accessible, and to take its work to as wide an audience as possible… The focus of the creative approach is on reinvesting dance with meaning, particularly where this has been lost through formalized techniques… (The) work inherently questions the traditional aesthetics and forms which pervade both modern and classical dance, and attempts to push beyond the values they reflect to enable discussion of wider and more complex issues.
-From the Artistic Policy of DV8 Physical Theatre (UK)
Audiences today want a real experience in their live performance, because they can get great script based entertainment at home, through various new media sources. Traditional theatre, which appeals on a mental, and hopefully also emotional level, has not been enough to compete with other media, and audiences have been declining. Physical theatre, by contrast appeals to the audience on a physical and emotional level, providing a much more immediate experience than traditional theatre, and audiences here have been growing. Today physical theatre is a broad term which covers the range of circus theatre forms, clown, mime, mask, commedia, visual theatre, and dance theatre.