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Physical Theatre

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Lauren Peate

on 17 June 2014

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Transcript of Physical Theatre

Physical Theatre
Steven Berkoff
Steven Berkoff was born in Stepney, London. Studying drama and mime in London and Paris, he also studied at Laban School of Dance - one of the best contemporary dance schools. I imagine this had a huge impact on his practice of dance as he learnt many styles of dance. He entered a series of repertory companies and in 1968 formed the London Theatre Group. Berkoff believed in using exaggerative body language and gestures to portray emotion and strories. He was strongly influenced by Bertolt Brecht - he believed in naturalistic elements for theatre. Berkoff's plays and adaptations have been performed in many countries and in many languages.
Jerzy Grotowski
He was a Polish Theatre director and became the leading member of the Expressionist Theatre movement. His work helped actors achieve a deeper understanding of what they were doing.
Vsevolod Meyerhold
Pina Bausch
Introduction to Physical Theatre

Physical Theatre is a type of theatre that involves expressing emotions, thoughts or stories through the body language and movement. Many famous practitioners of Physical Theatre include Pina Bausch, Steven Berkoff, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Jerzi Grotowski, who all portrayed their own version of Physical Theatre.

Frantic Assembly
"Everything must come from the heart, must be lived."
The story of Pina Bausch
She was a German Dancer and Choreographer
Born in Solingen in the first year of World War II
Grew up in her Parents' Cafe/Bar
She began dance studies at the age of 15 at The Folkwang School in Essen
Pinas Work
www.pina-bausch.de says: " It began with controversy; in 1973 Pina Bausch was appointed director of dance for the Wuppertal theatres and the form she developed in those early years, a mixture of dance and theatre, was wholly unfamiliar. In her performances the players did not merely dance; they spoke, sang - and sometimes they cried or laughed too."
In 1973, Pina Bausch was appointed Director of Dance in the Wuppertal Theatre
She was most famous for her Productions 'Cafe Muller' which was a performance based on her memories of her childhood at her parents' cafe, and 1980 which expresses her feminism.
The name refers to the year that the piece was created following the death of Rolf Borzik, who was a close collaborator and good friend of Pina Bausch's.
Expresses her feminism attitude towards men
"Drawing deeply on the violence in male-female relationships, often with mordantly witty texts and fantastical sets". - The Telegraph
"It is about death but it focuses the better part of it's energy on life. While it implies sadness, it is funny , even merry and entertaining". - NY Times
Cafe muller
Reenactment of her childhood memories during the first World War in her Parents' cafe 'Cafe Muller'.
Paints a sad picture of different characters in the now deserted cafe
"Bursts of violence followed by long stillness" - NY Times
An intense performance with such minimalistic movement
It is different from other Physical Theatre as she expresses more emotion through her naturalistic movements which are more exaggerated and look as if there was no routine and that nothing was rehearsed.
Sadness and despair was portrayed throughout the performance as the audience learn what Pina Bausch saw as a child creating a sense of sympathy.
Bausch has had a huge impact on the industry of dance and is now one of the most significant choreographers of all time and is an inspiration.
Rolph Borzik - Set designer and husband
Paul Taylor - Dancer/Choreographer
Donya Feuer - Dancer/Choreographer
"exaggerated & stylised theatre"
"externalising emotions"
"Berkoff's approach to theatre is incredibly physical" -www.totaltheatre.com
"exaggerated facial expressions"
"He is a British Practitioner, who's career has spanned from 1965 to today. His physical, exaggerated style of theatre is both popular and controversial, defying the norms of naturalistic theatre". - www.dramaandsuch.blogspot.co.uk
Berkoff and Total theatre
Berkoff believes that the theory of Total Theatre is key.He is a true believer that Total Theatre maintains that every aspect must have purpose. With a bare stage, and little language, the focus remains on the physical movement and not on the effects or creation of a scene. This encourages the audience to detach away from the play and make them think about what is being said. Other Practitioners/companies such as Pina Bausch and DV8 also believe in using Total Theatre.
Berkoff often did a lot of risk taking when it came to his performances, and pushing boundries beyond realism, just like practitioners Meyerhold and Grotowski. However, Steven Berkoff believed, as well as Meyerhold, in total theatre, whereas Grotowski believed in poor theatre and wanted all the attention on the actor. Grotowski was also the founder of Laboratory Theatre which he used to describe his actors institute which is about researching the art of Theatre.
"An innovative theorist who's approaches to acting training and theatre have significantly influenced theatre today" www.dlibrary.com
Laboratory Theatre
It is a term Grotowski used to describe his Actors institute, which is about researching the art of theatre, with specific focus on the actor.
"Grotowski wanted to question the nature of theatre and seek out new forms of expression for the actor, a way that the body and the voice of an actor can confront its true nature". - www.bbc.co.uk
Poor Theatre
Grotowski began to scrap entire sets and costumes and just stick with the basics, he decided that with everything stripped back, the focus would be on the actor, and not the set behind them, or their costumes.
Grotowski has such a big impact on theatre today because he caused the rethink of theatre, and how to look deeper into it and the fact that it's not all about costumes and lightning and the stage, he overturned the traditions of exotic costumes.
He was a Russian and Soviet Theatre Director, actor and theatrical producer. Myerhold was interested in providing ways for his actors to create a form of theatre that would be inspiring, he wanted his audience to be inspired.
He led the revolt against naturalism in the Russian
theatre. In his productions he experimented with grotesque elements and acrobatics.
His creative work has a huge influence upon theatre today. Meyerhold directed his actors according to his principles of Biomechanics. It was founded by Meyerhold as a method of preparation for actors originaslly a synthesis of gymnastics, acrobatics, to help control movements and energy.

"One should bear in mind that the whole concept of the actor’s performance, the introduction of biomechanics into the theatre, is, as far as Meyerhold is concerned, only part of a constant effort to define a theater which will go back to the roots of the theater, which will resurrect the inherited dependence of the theatre, as a working principle. Whatever variety there was in his creative work, whatever verbal inconsistencies and contradictions there may have been, Meyerhold’s creative work has, over forty years, been directed towards one unique goal: not to let theater be the same as life." www.unet.com
Meyerhold is an influence on Russian theatre and is recognised for his innovative theatre. Although his early work was influenced by Stanislavski's emphasis on realism, he eventualy rejected the naturalistic forms and looked for ways to produce more truthful performances. He believed rhythm should be the base of theatre itself, and his approaches have left a lasting impression on theatre.
Pina, as well as other practitioners/companies such as DV8 and Vsevolod Meyerhold, believed in Total Theatre, they believed that the set and costume design was significantly important.
Pina expressed emotion through her performances, e.g. Cafe Muller was created from her childhood memory, and 1980 symbolised her strong belief in feminism.
Bausch combined potent drama and dreamlike movement to create a powerful form of dance theater that influenced generations of dancers. She helped change the perception of what could be broguht into a dance performance . Her performances featured such a deep sense of theatricality that created such emotion for the audience.
“I don’t know where the beginning or the end is,” she said in an interview with The New York Times last year. “You have to digest. I don’t know what will come out.”

The ideas and feelings were often harsh, like frustration and alienation, cruelty and pain, but the works were frequently suffused with humor. Ms. Bausch was quoted as saying she was “not interested in how people move but in what moves them.” NY Times
Commedia De'll Arte

Also known as Italian comedy, was the first forms of theatre involving Street Theatre and Mime in the 1600s. Commedia De'll Arte led onto many later practitioners such as Steven Berkoff which then developed Theatre into what it is today.

Founded in 1983 by Simon McBurney, Annabel Arden and Marcello Magni, Complicite’s work ranges from adaptations of writings and
short stories through reinterpretation of classic texts to major devised pieces. The company is based in London and use extreme elements of movement to create their work. Their use of technology is amazing and also their physicality. They also known for the technology incorporated in their performances.
“to imagine, to compose, to suppose, to guess, to
purpose, to mediate, to describe, to depict, to scheme,
to contrive...”
Definition of devise, Chambers Dictionary
DV8 are a Physical Theatre company that were formed in 1986 and has been led by Lloyd Newson. The company have toured worldwide as well as winning many television awards. Their works combine video and a style of contemporary dance in an exploration of social issues and portraying emotion, almost like Pina Bausch.
Lloyd Newson
Enter Achilles
Can We Talk About This?
how has physcial theatre changed since 1986 when DV8 was formed? what is the performance about? what does it show? analyse
The Founders
Annabel Arden

Simon McBurney

Marcello Magni

Annabel Arden Studied at Cambridge University and then went on to co-found Théâtre de Complicité. Made her directing debut at the Glyndebourne opera festival in 2004.
"Be brave, do what you really believe in, and have faith."
Simon Mcburney was an on screen actor and was in well known shows such as The Vicar of Dibley, and films such as Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 1, The Golden Compass and as well as directing the film, also created the story of Mr Bean's Holiday.

"As far as I'm concerned all theatre is physical. As Aristotle says, you know, theatre is an act and an action, and he didn't mean just the writing of it, he meant that at the centre of any piece there is an action, a physical action."
McBurney, Simon.
Marcello Magni was most known for his popular work on The Adventures of Pinocchio. He trained at L'École Jacques Lecoq, Paris, one of the most popular School of Mime. He is a renowned Choreographer and Theatre Director.
A Dog's Heart
Comedia Dellarte
Vsevolod Meyerhold
Jerzy Grotowski
Steven Berkoff
Pina Bausch
Frantic Assembly
Complicite are based around Physical Theatre and were significantly influenced by Jacques Le Coq, like Steven Berkoff. They encourage the use of music, technology, set and costume design (Total Theatre). For example, there is a scene where a dog is being operated on and stage begins to be moved around, signifying danger. I think Complicite has some similarities with Meyerhold, as he believed in using technology to capture the audience.
Internationally, Frantic Assembly are renowned for creating thrilling, energetic and unforgettable theatre performances with a unique physical style that combines movement, design, music and text. It was founded by Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett, and Vicky Middleton in 1994. Like Pina Bausch, Frantic Assembly portray emotions through their physicality and movement, which often includes dancing too. They arenalso well known for incorporating technology in their performances, just like Complicite, and also using set and costume designs like Meyerhold. I recently found out in research that Frantic Assembly to not hire dancers, but just actors and take them out of their comfort zone by making them dance, as they like the fragility, which I find significantly interesting. Acclaimed by audiences and critics for their highly innovative and adventurous theatre, Frantic Assembly have created many playful, intelligent and dynamic productions over the years.
The Founders
A Love Song
"Compelling, understated perfection" - The Stage
A beautiful story of past and present performed using trademark choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett. Total Theatre elements are shown in the trailer, also including moments of dance.
Vicky Middleton
Scott Graham
Steven Hoggett
She Met Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett at Swansea University; they set up Frantic Assembly in 1994 - even though they had no idea how to run a theatre company. Little did they know it would be come an international success. Howevr, Vicky Pattison is planning to leave Frantic Assembly and move to Australia to continue producing.
Director and Choreographer
Artistic Director
Since founding DV8, his work and film have received nothing but amazing awards. Straddling dance, theatre, text and film, his work refuses to be defined. He was recently cited by the Critics Circle as being one of the hundred most influential artists working in Britain during the last hundred years. In 2013 Newson was awarded an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen for services to contemporary dance.
An exploation of male relationships. The 'fighting' scenes are especially brilliantly choreographed. Elements of the scene remind me of 'Cafe Muller' by Pina Bausch, representing the relationships.
Realistic movements like in Cafe Muller - this type of movement is also performed by the likes of DV8
One Man Show
In this performance, Berkoff remains on stage alone. He involves the audience regularly and uses different voices for different emotions. If he is stating a point about something and has strong physicality, and when he is talking about losing self respect he changes his voice tone and physicality to encourage sympathy from the audience, which gets a few laughs.
Berkoff aimed to convert what he saw as the bourgeois theatre of realism into a dynamic, presentational "total-theatre." His concept of total-theatre fulfils his desire for a spiritual and psychological theatre which attempts to "illuminate" the text rather than "depict" it.
Berkoff's shows often touch on politics and real life issues, a lot like DV8.
"Berkoff's theatre is above all actor-centered. He demands that actors create the physical environment which reduces the need for sets and props by relying upon the actor's precise control of body and voice. He believes that an imaginative use of mime, movement, and sound are all that is needed in order to create a production that appeals to the audience's collective imagination. This is far more valuable, and theatrical, than using physical objects. He is a man of extremes, which shows in his overstated acting approach and yet minimalist production aesthetic." www.ianfisher.com
What you see are rehearsals of Grotowski's actors. Grotowski had an incredible idea of purifying the theatre from all unnecessary elements: costumes, scenography and to concentrate on the play as a spiritual (relating to soul) and intimate experience.
Grotowski states in this clip that if we were to remove everything, even characterisation, there would remain two groups of people; the actors and the audience. Therefore, everything the actors are doing creates a net for the audience, giving them seperate spaces and adding more affect to the performances.
I especially like these clips, performed by ISTA - an International Arts Organisation who performed for the man himself Jerzy Grotowski who remains seated on stage on the first clip whilst actors are on stage performing elements of Grotowski's work also including small parts of humour. I think the techniques are phenominal and how they incorporate them in such a unique way. The way the dynamics change and fit in with the music is great. I also see sections of biomechanics by Meyerhold intergrated into both performaces.
Meyerhold became increasingly interested in exploring other theatrical forms in addition to the Realism/ Naturalism of the Art Theatre
He regarded movement, gesture, space, rhythm and "music" as the primary elements of the "language of the theatre." He dreamed of "retheatricalising" the theatre, of creating a theatre that would give its audience truthful images of life but that would not seek to imitate or copy life.
Meyerhold is strongly influenced by kabuki and believed that realism is a type of hypnotism which removed control of what happens on stage from the actor and give it to the character. He thought Theatre should not mirror reality, which is also what Grotowski believed. They did not want theatre to comapre to life, and insteas transcend through the body using stylised theatrical techniques.
The key principles of Meyerhold's Theatre and approaches to acting are:
The Mask
Non-Naturalistic Theatre
I feel that he had elements from Commedia dell'Arte (from the 1600s), Chinese Circus (acrobatic acts, balancing acts and other physical skills) and Kabuki (Japanese drama, including dance and mime).
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