Feature in Issue 10-1 | Spring 1998

Theatre de Complicite may have played at the National but, as Steven Berkoff comments in our interview on page 6, there remains a divide between the theatre establishment and work being produced by a growing number of performance companies with a physical training. The establishment may be flirting with physical theatre techniques, but (with a few notable exceptions) conventional drama training in the UK remains resolutely non-physical. Berkoff goes as far as to say that ‘physical theatre is art and non-physical theatre is not, because physical theatre starts in great techniques’. Shall the twain ever meet?

Berkoff fears not. In this issue he talks candidly about his distaste for establishment theatre and his passion for physical performance. He sees physical theatre – with its technical training, ritual and subtle language of the body – as a theatre of imagination. Conventional theatre, in his view, is mere storytelling and has been eclipsed by TV and film, which can tell stories more effectively. That Berkoff remains an outsider in British theatre, despite his star status and lucrative movie offers, is testimony to his belief in physical theatre techniques.

Another innovator who has forayed into the mainstream but remained committed above all to mime and physical theatre is David Glass. His honest and illuminating diary on the evolution of his latest project (page 9), reveals his ongoing search for a universal theatrical language. Like Berkoff, Glass continues to demonstrate that theatre is at its best when it incorporates a total sensory experience and engages the imaginative faculties of its audience.

Another technique which not only grabs an audience's attention but encourages them to participate in the show, is Forum Theatre. We take a look at the work of Cardboard Citizens, Britain's only theatre company comprised of performers with first-hand experiences of homelessness.

Oh, and whilst we're on the subject of being attention-grabbing, if you fancy being kidnapped, Blast Theory can oblige. Tum to page 12 for details of their latest performance project which merges reality and fantasy in an exciting take on popular culture's current obsession with all things violent and dangerous.

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-1
p. 3