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BA Physical Theatre

Southend Campus
  • Intensive actor training
  • Aerial and mask work in specialist facilities
  • Opportunity to develop individual and ensemble performances

Our BA Physical Theatre explores a world of physical and visual performance beyond traditional theatre. We combine dynamic and exciting devised and ensemble work, including circus, mime, mask and puppetry, alongside a typical British drama school training and modern European methodologies.

You acquire a wide skills base by experiencing areas such as aerial circus, devised storytelling, mask, mime, puppetry and clowning. This is underpinned by a core training in acting, voice, singing and movement, enabling you to create challenging new shows and to re-imagine traditional pieces for public performance.

Your first year focuses on developing the basic skills that you will use throughout your career. Alongside a foundation classes in voice, movement and singing, you explore:

  • acting and improvisation
  • neutral mask and expressive mask
  • poor theatre
  • Bouffon
  • acrobatics
  • devised storytelling

Many modules culminate in performances among your peers and your practical classes are supported by contextual and historical study.


Skills I
  • Regular studio classes for development of skills.
  • Building of competence in skills such as voice, movement and singing.
  • Exploration of the classical mime vocabulary.
  • Exploration of the movement vocabulary of modern mime practitioners.
  • Introduction to the work of key modern practitioners such as Etienne DeCroux and Jacques Lecoq.
Poor theatre: at work on Grotowski

Exploration of the mental-physical-emotional approach to performance developed by Grotowski and his followers.

Narrative and story theatre
  • Exploration of processes for devising, rehearsal and performance of narrative through physical and vocal techniques.
  • Analysis of narrative structure.
  • Analysis of text.
  • Exploration of single narrative using multiple approaches.
  • Performance of a story using combined techniques.
  • Neutral mask.
  • Western styles of mask work.
  • Introduction to masks from non-Western cultures.
  • Creation of solo and ensemble performances.

The module provides an initial training in acting theory, method and practice based on the ability to change, adapt, extend, perceive, accept and reject.

You look outside yourself, approaching firstly improvised situations and then scripted text in imaginative and collaborative ways. By the end of the course you will know how to start work on a play and will have begun collaborative text work. You will be able to begin to create a character from a text and to start the process of creating the world of the play.

Contextual studies I
  • Introduction to learning resources.
  • Introduction to personal record of analysis and reflection.
  • The structures and conventions of essay writing.
  • Introduction to the context of physical performance.
  • Reading and analysing texts for physical theatre performance.
  • Introduction to the contextualisation of practical work currently being explored.
  • Critical examination and discussion of current practical work.
  • Observation and analysis of documented performance.

Your second year continues with core work in acting, voice, movement and singing, while you engage with skilled and technically demanding areas of physical theatre, including:

  • aerial circus
  • object theatre and puppetry
  • Commedia dell’ Arte
  • melodrama
  • biomechanics

You perform two major classroom projects each term.


Skills II
  • Regular studio classes for development of advanced skills
  • Building of professional level competence in skills such as  voice, movement and singing.
Human comedy: human drama

The module aims to:

  • examine and develop analysis and performance techniques required for Commedia dell’ Arte and melodrama
  • extend your ability to produce scales of acting that transcend psychological realism
  • develop the ability to create melodramatic performance work, eg monologues and operatic songs
Object theatre
  • Exploration of techniques of visual theatre through objects, puppets, elements of design and physical image.
  • Practice of methods and styles of puppetry and object manipulation.
  • Creation of a performance which emphasises the visual/kinaesthetic imagination.
Meyorhold and biomechanics

Introduction to notions of stylised theatre, to the work of Vsevolad Meyerhold and to the theory of biomechanics.

Circus in a suitcase

This module introduces you to the broad range of circus skills needed to create circus. It provides an individual performance focus and encourages development of individual performance ability in a particular skill such as aerials, juggling, clowning or stilt-walking. The course delivers physical conditioning for circus skills and development of acrobatic skills.

Circus is a predominantly specialist discipline in which the focus is on skills and virtuoso performance. You build on your understanding of, and experience in a variety of circus skills, and work toward a professional level of expertise in their individual circus discipline such as corde lisse, bungy, trapeze, or clowning. This unit also further develops acrobatic balancing and tumbling to a professional level.

By the end of the module you will have developed and experienced a range of advanced circus skills, an individual creative performance focus in a discipline such as corde lisse, bungy, trapeze, juggling, or clowning and advanced acrobatic balancing and tumbling skills.

The work of the module also includes an element of street theatre training which aims to integrate and apply elements of mask, clowning skills and commedia and thus provides you with opportunities to put into practice a wide range of the skills you have learned in the first year of the course.

Contextual studies II

The work of this module is to provide you with opportunities to examine, contextualise and interpret texts. The choice of texts will normally be guided by what is deemed suitable for the specific needs of the year cohort as a whole, thus helping to develop areas of work and professional growth which need to be addressed and consolidated specifically within the company of actors.

You use music and visual art as well as text as context and source material for physical interpretation.

Your third year concentrates on professional performance and career preparation. Alongside core classes, this includes:

  • work with industry professionals on full productions in our state of the art theatre
  • acting in front of the camera
  • meet with industry professionals from major companies for employment talks and workshops
  • present a showcase to an audience of invited industry professionals, including agents, casting directors and major theatre companies


Skills III

By the final year you are considered ready to be a performer. The work of skills classes in Terms One and Two of the final year are, therefore, focussed on your professional development. The work of this module consists of regular studio classes:

  • to deal with any on-going problems in building of professional level competence in skills such as contemporary dance, stage combat, voice and music/singing
  • for show preparation and preparation of audition pieces
  • to establish development and practice of specific, non-standard warm-ups for a range of rehearsal and performance preparation
Ensemble performance project
  • Development of small group ensemble.
  • Research and development of original performance projects.
  • Rehearsal and performance of physical theatre projects.
Performance of a text

Following the devised performance project in term one, you start to use your physical skills on an existing play. They experience the different challenges involved in bringing your creativity and athleticism to a more structured piece of writing.

Professional preparation

This module provides you with the necessary skills and preparation to launch your professional career.

You receive specific training in audition and interview technique, in marketing skills such as web design, CVs and letters of introduction and legal and financial issues affecting professional actors.

Opportunities are provided for workshops, meetings and lectures by and with industry professionals such as agents and casting directors, as well as with working actors and directors. Throughout the module you are given practical assignments on which you receive feedback from guest lecturers and industry professionals.

Final performance project

For this final performance project students usually prepare solo, dual or triplicate performances for public performance. You are encouraged to apply imaginative interpretations of text, music or the visual arts in the projects. You must also develop the ability to work independently of a director or tutor with a high degree of confidence and creativity.

While the final performance will be in solo or small groups, you are also judged on your alertness to a company production. You must demonstrate the generosity and creative energy necessary to sustain fellow actors in your performances as well as your own.

You write a logbook of the rehearsal and performance process and submit this at the end of the module.