The Active Text

Unlocking Plays Through Physical Theatre

By Dymphna Callery

The Active Text
Paperback, 224 pages Online Price:
ISBN: 9781848421271
Format: 216mm x 138mm
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Published: 8th January 2015
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RRP: £12.99
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Category: Acting, Directing, Movement & dance

Downloadable extract: Active_Text_The_EXTRACT.pdf

Many theatre practitioners think of physical theatre as one thing and text-based theatre as another. In this book, Dymphna Callery, author of Through the Body: A practical guide to physical theatre, shows how exercises and rehearsal techniques associated with physical and devised theatre can be applied to scripted plays. Working ‘through the body’ enables performers to discover what really makes a play work.

Drawing on key practitioners, including Jacques Lecoq, Joan Littlewood, Peter Brook and Simon McBurney, The Active Text offers a complete approach to working with a scripted play, leading the reader through a process of active exploration and experimentation that includes:

  • Uncovering a play’s internal dynamics 
  • Using improvisation and theatre games
  • Exploiting the languages of the body
  • Getting inside the words that are spoken (as well as those that aren’t!)
  • Discovering image structures
  • Understanding the impact on the audience

Throughout the book, the author draws on a core selection of well-known texts (from Sophocles and Shakespeare to Brecht, Arthur Miller, Steven Berkoff and Sarah Kane), showing how an active approach to text can challenge assumptions about even the most familiar of plays.

Packed with theatre games, improvisation exercises and rehearsal techniques, The Active Text is an inspirational guide for performers, directors, students and teachers. It will revitalise work in the rehearsal room, workshop or classroom – anywhere that dramatic text needs to be brought to life.

Blog Entry: Dymphna Callery on the need for a more playful approach to staging scripted plays. 'A play should be an experience for the senses and the minds of an audience. Unearthing the fabric of actions and images that determine what happens – and what an audience will see – is where it begins. And in my experience that doesn’t start with a read-through or sitting in a chair.' Read more >>

'a wealth of ideas... clear and concise... an inspirational and a welcome resource for drama teachers. ... A final word of warning: reading this book can make you itch to start working on directing a play.'

- Drama Magazine

'this book will have you dipping into it time and time again for its no-nonsense practical perspective'


'Fascinating stuff… thought-provoking… I am very taken with [it]'

- The Stage

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