Moving Intimacies: A Comparative Study of "Physical Theatres" in France and the UK

Eugenie Pastor

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is an exploration of movement in contemporary “physical theatres”. I develop a renewed understanding of “physical theatres” as embodied framework to experience both spectatorship and theatre-making. I analyse how, in this type of performance, movement blurs distinctions between the intimate and the collective, the inside and the outside, thus challenging definitions of intimacy and tactility.
The thesis consists of a comparative study of examples of “physical theatres”, in the 21st century, in France and in the UK. The comparison highlights that “physical theatres” practitioners are under-represented in France, a reason I attribute in part to a terminological absence in the French language. The four case studies range from itinerant company Escale and their athletic embodiment of a political ideal to Jean Lambert-wild’s theatre of “micro-movement”, from Told by an Idiot’s position in a traditional theatre context in the UK to my own work within Little Bulb Theatre, where physicality is virtuosic in its non-virtuosity. For each case study, I use a methodology that echoes this exploration of movement and reflects my position within each fieldwork. I argue for bilingualism as a methodological tool, and I coin an approach that draws on both a phenomenological perspective and on dance ethnography to take into account the embodied knowledge I acquired through fieldwork. This methodology also allows me to reflect on my own experience as a French “physical theatres”-maker within a British context.
The comparison highlights the conditions, in each context, that enable “physical theatres” to be alternative and potentially subversive. It also suggests that contemporary “physical theatres” enable an embodied experience that, somatically breaking down perceived boundaries between “self” and “other”, allows a collective intimacy to arise. This in turn suggests potentially subversive modes of organisation and proposes an alternative to dominant ways of making and experiencing theatre.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Worth, Libby, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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