Physical theatre is a theatre genre that pursues the making of theatre by means that are principally physical, a characteristic which makes it particularly adaptable to an international audience. Influenced by mime and contemporary dance, it asks of the actor to have a high level of body control as well as flexibility. Physical theatre has strong roots in more ancient traditions such as Commedia dell’Arte and ancient Greek theatre. A big contribution to physical theatre was certainly that of the great French master, Etienne Decroux (father of mime of the body), he structured a mode of movement grammar, which analyses segment by segment, the expressive mobility of the actor.
Oriental theatre has also had a big influence on physical theatre, providing a higher level of physical preparation. Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, Jacques Copeau were all influenced by oriental theatre. Meyerhold and Grotowski developed courses for actors that included a high level of physical training from these traditions.
Peter Brook also developed this type of work.
The echoes of these influences on theatre and dance today keep blurring the boundaries. A great of example of this is Pina Bausch’s Tanzteater.
The principal interpreter of physical theatre, a student of Decroux, actor, director, and recently a writer of important books about this discipline, is Yves Lebreton.