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Within the theatre, performers’ physicality communicates story and narrative as much as words. Performers use a range of physical skills to help transform themselves into the character they are playing. The connection between breath, speech and movement is what makes up the character and helps the audience “read” the character’s feelings.

“There is as much non-verbal communication in theatre as verbal. There are so many layers to the text. … When I put a prop into the hands of an actor, it is chosen in relation to the character, the actor, and what it brings to the whole of the play. It is going to communicate non-verbally, but is of equal importance to the words. It is, of course, easier to get contributions from actors who’ve been trained in physical theatre – they bring a lot more to the table.”

Jenn Ben-Yakov, artistic director

What are the tools to reveal meaning physically?

А confident character may dominate the space, standing up straight with their head looking up, using open body language such as hands on the hip and a wide stance. A more nervous character might have more closed body language, with their arms crossed and head down.

Eye contact can be used to reveal the status and relations

hip between characters. For example, two characters in love may look adoringly into each other’s eyes, whereas a character avoiding eye contact completely could indicate a strained relationship.

The pace of movement within a scene can completely change the atmosphere on stage. For example, a scene may begin with lots of fast-paced movement as servants quickly prepare for a meal. Then the Lord and Lady appear, entering the stage slowly and serenely, highlighting to the audience their power and demonstrating their status in contrast to the servants.

When actors use the whole range of physical skills, the production team benefits it a lot during the design and rehearsal phases. Performers can be trained to make appropriate physical choices to portray the character and better convey the character’s feelings. With that knowledge they can decide what works for the character, the scene, the partners and the play.

Professional theatre directors consider the role of the physical dramaturg of their performance as part of their job. If you want the audience to be really involved in the show, rather than just sit back and spectate, you should combine the text, history, dramatic structure, and the author’s intent with movement analysis and physical theatre techniques. Seemingly tiny details such as space or timing can be crucial and make the show more engaging. A director always aims to grab the audience and inspire them want to watch the rest of the production.

In order to guide the spectator’s focus, the director participates in structuring the performers’ actions and the connection of sequences he or she is aware of, the rhythm ranging from individual gestures to the overall rhythm of the total piece. They can shape the time and space of the stage and practice physical dramaturgy in an existing role or in the process of devising a production.

At NIPAI, we offer special professional training in the field of acting, physical theatre, for actors and practice for directors. Participants will be able to get training based on Ostrenko Brothers Method, which was formed on the basis of Russian theatre school and influenced by traditional European and Asian practices in performing arts.


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