The Fascinating World of Physical Theatre

Before half term, Year 7 and 8 were lucky enough to venture into London to watch an amazing production called, ‘The Trench’ at the Southwark Playhouse.  Before we even reached our seats, the production managed to immerse us in the experience, as it was pitch black, with only a few low-lit lamps guiding us into the theatre.  This created a claustrophobic effect helping to recreate the horrors of World War 1.

The story is based on a true account of a soldier who became entombed underground in a collapsed tunnel.  He begins to see a series of terrifying creatures and the line between reality and fantasy becomes a little blurred.  What I particularly enjoyed about the performance was the way in which the small cast of four used their bodies as props to help create a vivid image of the soldier’s experience.  For example, planks were laid across the backs of the two men to emphasise the tight crawl space.  Along with the smoke and moody live music, we were taken back a hundred years to the muddy, hideous setting of a World War I trench.

The puppetry also added to the frightening scenes as there were some truly ghastly apparitions, including a dragon, a horse-  skulled demon and a macabre rat (see picture)

Not only did we have the chance of seeing some wonderful live theatre but, a few days later, we also had the opportunity to have a Drama Workshop with one of the production team.  She told us a number of interesting things about the show.  For example, the way the crew signal to the actors using lights that only the cast can see: they will flash the lights when a part of the stage is unsafe eg.  a trapdoor has been opened. In the workshop, we also learnt some of the techniques used in creating a powerful, physical theatre piece. There was a lot of laughter, as, in groups, we had to use our bodies to create odd things like pieces of fruit, animals, modes of transport and famous world landmarks (there are some good photographs of the Year 7s doing physical theatre on the school website, so use the link at the end of this blog to take a look *)

This coming Sunday, we mark the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I.  Bickley will be having a special service in school on Friday 9th November, which will be led by Father Richard.  I feel very privileged to have seen such a powerful, dramatic play about life in the trenches.  The prologue included the lines, ‘The future’s youth may never understand/The hell that once descended upon this place’.  How fortunate we are to live in a time of peace and on Friday we will remember the incredible sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom.


* Some sources:

This includes an atmospheric trailer of the play

Year 7 Drama Workshop

If you want to find out a little more about physical theatre, I recommend the BBC bitesize website.