The nature of Physical theatre

At its simplest, you could define Physical theatre as a form of theatre that puts emphasis on movement rather than dialogue. But remember there are a huge number of variations as the genre covers a broad range of work. But essentially Physical theatre is anything that puts the human body at the centre of the storytelling process. As a result it’s often abstract in style, using movement in a stylised and representational way. With the expression of ideas choreographed through movement, such performers use very little or no dialogue at all.

DV8 are arguably among the main practitioners of Physical theatre as a ‘full’ art form. They focus on looking at the dramatic potential that can be unlocked from movement. Their work is often described as existing at a crossroads where dance, sound and drama meet. DV8 are well known for using Physical theatre to explore complex aspects of human relationships and social or cultural issues.

In DV8’s production, Can We Talk About This? the director and performers used Physical theatre to express extremely complicated and delicate political and social issues. The main theme of the production looked at multiculturalism, separatism and militant Islam. Words and bodywork were combined to express what’s sometimes difficult to put into words alone.

Two members of DV8 performing in Can We Talk About This?

Hannes Langolf and Christina May in Can We Talk About This? Credit: DV8/Matt Nettheim

A member of DV8 performing in Can We Talk About This?

Lee Davern in Can We Talk About This? Credit: DV8/Matt Nettheim

  1. abstract The opposite of a realistic representation is an abstract representation where a character or concept may be symbolised in a poetic rather than literal way.
  2. devised A piece of original work created through rehearsal. Often explored as ensemble rather than director led.
  3. fourth wall An imaginary fourth wall between the audience and the actors to help establish the illusion of reality.
  4. genre A category or type of something. Fiction and non-fiction are two examples of different genres.
  5. Islam A person who follows Islam is a Muslim and believes the Qur'an is the direct word of Allah. Muslims follow the example and teachings of Muhammad.
  6. multiculturalism A system that recognises and respects the value of all cultures within a community/society.
  7. practitioner Someone who practises or has written theatrical theory and whose theatre may have a definable theatrical form.
  8. representational To represent reality or an aspect of real life.
  9. separatism To keep cultures separate and independent from each other. A separatist may believe their own culture to be the dominant or better way of living.
  10. stylised An attempt to enhance a scene using unnatural methods.