Physical Theatre Scripts and Textbooks

YoNew Physical Theatre coverur Handy Companion to Devising and Physical Theatre
by Pilar Orti
includes “Five Plays to Play With” by Phillip Johnson, Richard Mann, Pilar Orti and Mark Reid.

An introduction for those who are interested in using physical theatre in their work as students or teachers and who would like to enthuse others about using this kind of style. This book has been included in the Recommended Reading list for the EdExcel Level 3 Advanced GCE in Drama and Theatre Studies and the OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical Cert/Diploma in Performing Arts.

Our imagination is boundless. When creating a piece of theatre, we don’t need to limit ourselves to those situations we encounter in real life. Our characters can exist in dreams and other surreal places; we can even travel through time. As humans we crave stories that will take us away from our ordinary world and physical theatre is the perfect form to meet this need.

“Your Handy Companion to Devising and Physical Theatre” is particularly useful for those studying for a post-16 drama qualification and for teachers who encourage their students to be as theatrical as possible when creating their own work.

The book includes:

  • An advocacy chapter on the joys of physical theatre and ensemble work.
  • A simple outline on structuring the devising process.
  • Exercises for building the ensemble, creating characters, developing the story and using theatrical devices.

This second edition includes advice on working towards a post-16 qualification and how to use ‘Five Plays to Play With’ in the classroom.


Five Plays to Play With
by Phillip Johnson, Richard Mann, Pilar Orti and Mark Reid.

‘Five Plays to Play With’ is made up of five short pieces, each with performance times of under ten minutes long. They have been put together as a resource for those who wish to explore different theatre styles either in the classroom or for pure joy. Perfect for teaching physical theatre.

Softly Softly is an allegorical piece is set in a small village, where there is a strong community feeling, until one day the villagers loose the ability to speak. The disappearance of the voice, brings the breakdown of all communication between the villagers and the joy disappears from every day life.

Up the Hill Backwards is a purely visual play. There are only two sentences in the whole piece – everything else is told through action. An underscore can be used to give it the feel of a classic European film.

Charlie is a regular guy who falls in love with a regular girl. But getting the girl of your dreams is not always that easy, especially when your imagination leads you to imagine a murder attempt.

So You Want to Be a Physical Theatre Performer. Professor Phillipe Hoffmanonsky, from the LeyCoke Institute of Bodily Mimed Expressive Arts takes us through the characteristics of physical theatre and the qualities of the physical theatre performer. This brief “lecture” takes a comic look at Physical Theatre – the need for slow motion, non-linear structure and much, much repetition…
Brief notes are included to explain some of the concepts in this “lecture”.

Cairo 1948 is a two-hander. Part film noir, part melodrama, Cairo 1948 is the story of a man and a woman who fall in love only to discover they are both on different sides of the law. Cairo 1948 is set in a bar in Cairo, another bar in Nairobi and the jungle in Thailand and spans two decades. Quite a challenge for two performers.

Legacy in Blood. Written mainly as a monologue, Legacy in Blood begins with a dark ritual, where a woman is offered as a sacrifice to the revered… Mark. An unlikely person to be worshipped, Mark tells us the story of how he discovered he was… how shall we put it, not quite human.

The Space to Move by Christian Darley

I never met Christian but I did attend her memorial event, a year after her death. I would have loved to meet her – hearing about her work and having read her book I can safely say that my practice would have been influenced by her – that my views on training for and beyond the theatre would have been influenced by her.

Christian had much worth sharing – and so it was one of her best friends who encouraged her to write down her experience and thoughts on teaching and theatre; it is a testament to her spirit and generosity that three of her closest friends got together over a year to edit her book, supported by the principal of the drama school where Christian used to teach, championing her work.

I was working with Linda Baker at the time when she began to work on the manuscript, so I have had a special connection with this book. Reading the first draft was a joy. And reading the finished product made me feel like someone was articulating my own values in a much better way than I ever could.

The Space to Move is precisely about that: about creating the space for actors to move and therefore, feel. You can’t act without moving – even if that movement consists of just your breath fueling your stillness. Only yesterday at a mask workshop, I was reminded of the need to move to discover during improvisation. Move, continue moving and the thoughts and the feelings will arrive. You just need to create the space for them.

Christian gets to the heart of what actor training should be and if you are interested in theatre but have never been through any kind of formal training yourself, you should read it. For it explains what drama training should be: discovering yourself, discovering others, surrendering to the work and above all, allowing the joy of exploration to come through.

If you are a theatre practitioner, especially if you are in charge of facilitating the work of others (as workshop leader, as director) then I urge you to read this book. It talks about issues such as trust – how trust can only be built through weeks and needs to be built slowly; it talks about the importance of contact work; it talks about how we should work on the voice through the body, as this is its shell. And all of this is done with warmth, care and humour. Just like theatre training should be.

“I often tell actors that imagination is in the body: rather than being limited to a space in the brain, it lies in the movements of fingers and toes, in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. In improvisation, imagination is the response of the body to space, time, music and human dynamic that fuels the thinking brain, not the other way around.”

Why is That So Funny? by John Wright

Overflowing with fantastic games and exercises, this is a treasure trove for anyone interested in perusing this avenue of work. John Wright has laid down his life’s work for you to explore – and all for the price of a book.

An Actor Adrift by Yoshi Oida

An intelligent, insightful, indepth, inspiring look into cross cultural creativity within an ensemble experience. Having trained in Japanese traditional theatre techniques, Yoshi became the first member of Peter Brook’s international theatre company. This book recounts his journey from Japan through Paris to India, from Noh to The Mahabharata, as an actor and a human.

When Five Years Pass by Federico Garcia Lorca

Available from amazon as Kindle and paperback.

Described as an “impossible comedy”, When Five Years Pass is one of Federico García Lorca’s most surreal works. Written during his stay in New York, the play is set in a modern city and is populated by a wide range of characters including a talking mannequin and a dead boy and cat.

After waiting for five years to marry his fiancée, the Young Man discovers that she has moved on and he no longer fits the memory she had of him. But his longing for a child takes him to another woman who had longed for him five years ago – but will she be ready to love him before five years pass?

This version of the play includes an introduction with information on Garcia Lorca and When Five Years Pass.

This translation can be purchased as a paperback from Amazon – click here.

Or if you read your scripts on the Kindle, click on the image below.