Module code: THE1020

Module Overview

Performance, according to Ruth Holliday and John Hassard ‘is […] an explicitly embodied process’ (2001: 7). This module asks students to consider and uncover what such a statement might mean. It introduces students to a combination of practical and critical approaches to the body on stage and offers insights into how the performing body has been, and might be, experienced, theorized, received, and understood. This practical module will introduce students to systems and methods of making and preparing for theatrical approaches to performance which prioritise bodily expression – what is sometimes referred to as ‘physical theatre’. But what might this mean? Can a physical theatre embrace all physicalities? Is speaking a physical act, for instance? Does the body really ‘speak’ in gestures?

Through a practically-based enquiry, we will investigate these and other related questions, addressing them in relation to in-class discussions, reading materials as well as live and recorded viewings, and applying our thoughts directly to performance. In doing so, the students will gain both a direct experience and critical understanding of how theatre is made in and from the body, and of how select critical paradigms further our understanding of performance as an embodied process.  

Module provider

Guildford School of Acting

Module Leader

REFSKOU Anne-Sophie (GSA)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

JACs code: W520

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The module will consider varying practical and critical approaches to the body on stage. While practical enquiry will enable the students to pursue and further their own interests and skillsets when it comes to embodied performance, critical outlook will include semiotic, phenomenological, historicized, gender- or race- specific perspectives on the performing body. The module will take as case studies a range of theatrical styles and conventions stemming from the 20th and early 21st century’s theatre history; it will be as important to consider the body in the context of contemporary realism or radical Live Art practice as it is to consider current forms of physical theatre. The module will ask after both practical and critical approaches to the body, reading (for example) Judith Butler’s theories of gendered bodies alongside Meyerhold’s biomechanics approach to actor training. A special emphasis will be place upon practitioner’s writings.

The class will be divided into companies, each of which will work towards a presentation of extracts from a chosen contemporary British play (e.g. Sarah Kane’s Crave, Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life, Tim Crouch’s My Arm or Simon Stephens’ Three Kingdoms). Each of these companies will approach the text and the course enquiry through a series of workshops that introduce a range of physically-based performance techniques based on certain key issues (such as Movement, Gesture, Voice, Composition, Rhythm and Space). Following these workshops, each company will work towards a performance of extracts from a chosen key contemporary playtext, which will be recorded for use in the group lecture demonstrations in the Final Week. Throughout the course students are required to undertake documentation and research exercises, edited versions of which will be prepared for submission in the final individual reflective essay.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation LECTURE-DEMONSTRATION (GROUP) 50

Alternative Assessment

Lecture- Demonstration (Individual) 4-6 Minutes

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: first-hand experience, knowledge and understanding of 20th and 21st century’s embodied performance, informed by an appropriate level of scholarship; applying theory to performance analysis and practice as a means of interrogating into and understanding specific forms of embodied theatre and performance; identifying developments in critical theory and demonstrate effective analysis of those developments; articulating complex thought processes clearly and concisely and being able to engage with different presentational formats (including a lecture-demonstration).

Thus, the individual reflective essay assignment for this module is intended to give students the opportunity to begin to engage with the above in a focused performance analysis, where students are asked to analyse and reflect back on the practical workshops, supervised and unsupervised rehearsals and critical reading they have undertook throughout the semester.

The lecture demonstration assignment, due to take place on Week 11, consists of a group presentation during which the students present research findings on either a cohesive theory of the performing body, or on an artist/company who offers significant insight into how we might critically understand the body on stage (such as Frantic Assembly, Complicite or Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker for example). In these ways, students take ownership of the theoretical paradigms and embodied practices they encounter, and they also sharpen their skills of performance readership and analysis.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students are to present their group performance on Week 9, during which oral feedback will be shared in preparation for their Summative Assessment. Prior to this, there will be a session dedicated to supervised rehearsals during which the students will be encouraged to show their findings to the teacher and share concerns, thoughts and feedback in an informal setting.

In the context of the Summative Assessment,  students are expected to document their creative processes, final performance and findings and to use it as supporting material within their group lecture demonstration, in order to demonstrate their understanding and critical analysis of their own creative and learning process.

In regards to the individual portfolio assignement, a group conversation will also be arranged to discuss the assignemnt in further details and students will be asked to pursue assigned and focused research at the library.


Module aims

  • To recognise individual, cultural and historical conditions through inhabiting the body in performance
  • To introduce analytical, historical, critical, contextual and practical approaches to the study of embodied performance
  • To enable students to present initial conclusions with respect to the above analyses
  • To provide a critical overview of theories of embodiment in twentieth and twenty-first century theatre, as they relate to theatrical performance
  • To prepare students to experience and closely analyse the performing body on stage, and as it may be represented or prescribed in text, with reference to theoretical knowledge and to specific performance practices
  • To introduce technical skills in working with the body through sustained teaching, including warming up/down
  • To consider and engage the expressive potential of the physical body in performance and inspire creativity, individual play and development of practice
  • To enable students to physically explore ideas as a mode of personal expression and communication and develop skills in ‘embodied research'
  • To enhance students' ability to articulate complex ideas through formal written and presentational techniques

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed Ref
1 Clearly distinguish between select theories of embodiment, as they relate to theatrical performance.  K
2 Identify and appreciate the significance of the body in the creation of meaning on stage. K
3 Utilize theories of embodiment in the analysis of varying modes and conventions of performance. C
4 Engage in practical exploration and application of technique and exercises drawn from a range of different approaches to performance. ) P
5 Develop a ‘language' of physical performance and demonstrate an ability to apply this language to issues in performance. P
6 Demonstrate informed preparation for performance of physical theatre and the acquisition of physical skills training. P
7 Perform one complex section of movement that reveal prepared, practiced and embodied exploration of performance practices. P
8 Develop an ability to explore practical and theoretical issues independently and with a group. T
9 Present key findings and ideas in both written and performative forms. T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 11

Independent Study Hours: 128

Seminar Hours: 11

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to: enhance knowledge, experience and understanding of 20th and 21st-century embodied performance; foster critical thinking and analytical skills (particularly with regards to history and traditions to what is often referred as “physical theatres”), as well as technical and performance skills; enhance confidence and the ability to articulate and present ideas clearly and effectively; and enhance cognitive skill in the application of theory within practice.

Indicative learning and teaching methods include: workshops, supervised and unsupervised rehearsals, lecture and seminars, group discussions, peer-to-peer learning, independent research and reflection.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • 1.30 hour practical workshop x 6 weeks + 30 min seminar x 6 weeks

  • 2 hour lecture x 1 week

  • 2 hour supervised rehearsal x 2 weeks

  • 2 hours students group presentations x 2 weeks

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for PERFORMING BODIES :

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.