Undergraduate Course

BA Physical Theatre

BA Physical Theatre


The details
Physical Theatre
October 2020
3 years
Southend Campus

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.

Why we're great.
  • Intensive acting training.
  • Aerial and mask work in specialist facilities.
  • Opportunity to develop individual and ensemble performances.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

“I believe the training in physical theatre gives a deeper awareness and understanding for any actor. I am very privileged to be in this course at East 15 with the most supportive staff and classmates, which made studying overseas feel like home.”

Deborah Hoon, BA Physical Theatre

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

Applicants will need to successfully complete a physical workshop audition and should also have, or expect to have:
A-levels: CDD, or the equivalent in UCAS tariff points, to include 2 full A Levels


International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.


Example structure

We offer dynamic and unique course for actors, directors, technical theatre specialists and students of theatre practice. Training at East 15 draws upon 50 years of tradition combined with a keen sense of the world of stage and screen today.

Our carefully selected modules will give you the chance to explore and develop your specialist training.

Skills I

Regular studio classes for development of skills. Building of competence in skills such as voice, movement and singing.

View Skills I on our Module Directory


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.

View Mime on our Module Directory

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.

View Narrative and Story Theatre on our Module Directory


Neutral mask. Western styles of mask work. Introduction to masks from non-Western cultures. Creation of solo and ensemble performances.

View Mask on our Module Directory

Poor Theatre: At Work on Grotowski

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

View Poor Theatre: At Work on Grotowski on our Module Directory

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.

View Contextual Studies I on our Module Directory


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.

View Character on our Module Directory

Skills II

Regular studio classes for development of advanced skills Building of professional level competence in skills such as voice, movement and singing.

View Skills II on our Module Directory

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.

View Object Theatre on our Module Directory

Meyerhold and Biomechanics

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

View Meyerhold and Biomechanics on our Module Directory

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.

View Circus in a Suitcase on our Module Directory

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.

View Contextual Studies II on our Module Directory

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, and develop the ability to create melodramatic performance work, e.g. monologues and operatic songs.

View Human Comedy; Human Drama on our Module Directory

Skills III

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, and to establish development and practice of specific, non-standard warm-ups for a range of rehearsal and performance preparation.

View Skills III on our Module Directory

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.

View Performance of a Text on our Module Directory

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.

View Professional Preparation on our Module Directory

Ensemble Performance Project

Development of small group ensemble. Research and development of original performance projects. Rehearsal and performance of physical theatre projects.

View Ensemble Performance Project on our Module Directory

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.

View Final Performance Project on our Module Directory


Year 1

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.

Year 2

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.

Final year

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

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee


Additional costs for materials and field trips of up to approximately £650 per academic year. Equipment lists are reviewed annually.

International fee


Additional costs for materials and field trips of up to approximately £650 per academic year. Equipment lists are reviewed annually.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

You also need to complete and send us a completed East 15 application form, including a copy of your audition payment receipt so that we can arrange your audition.

For full details, please see the East 15 website.

Apply now


Applicants to this course will need to book an audition. If you apply to us through UCAS we will send you information on how to do this. Alternatively, you can apply to East 15 directly. If you’re resident in the UK you’ll visit our campus to take part in the audition, where you’ll meet some of our staff and sample our teaching. Please see our website for more information about preparing for auditions.

Our staff travel the world auditioning applicants so if you’re not resident in the UK, it’s likely that we’ll be in a location near you at some point. This will be a one-to-one audition. If you still can’t make a physical audition, we are sometimes able to accept video auditions.

Offers for these courses will only be made after a successful audition.

For full details, please see the East 15 website.

Southend Campus

Visit Southend Campus

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If you're joining our School of Health and Social Care, East 15 Acting School, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, or Essex Business School, you may well be studying at our Southend Campus.

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Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to book a campus tour here.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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