The public's perception of war is influenced by every media story they see, every account they read, and every story they hear. News telecasts and newspapers tend to lean towards a focus of the grand narratives of war such as political involvement and overarching strategy. Media such as books and film can tell a more personal narrative of the events of war and attempt to display how war "really is" through the use of written and visual language that focuses more on how things happened as opposed to simply what happened. Theatre provides a unique perspective on war as the audience and performers are in a shared space with performed events of war that are live and embodied by individual performers. Theatre's unique attributes focus the audience towards a perception of the individual and his/her experience in war through the embodiment that is happening right in front of the audience. Physically based theatre narrows that existing theatrical focus to the body specifically in a way that makes the individual physical experience of the soldier the primary narrative. The politics and strategies of war will always be a secondary focus to the human body in the theatrical context. In this thesis, I examine two productions that come out of the United Kingdom in 2007: The National Theatre of England's War Horse and The National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch. Through a close reading of these two productions I demonstrate physical-theatre's ability to highlight the human experience and importance in war as it focuses on the individual body and its relationships with other individuals. As these works are accessed through an examination of the visual and stylized language of physical theatre, the creation and recollection of memory in war stories, and the significance of gender in war, the humanizing representations imbedded in physical-theatre become evident. This thesis comes as the United States and the United Kingdom are involved in conflicts across the globe; some in continuation of the same conflicts that existed at the time these two productions were produced. Soldiers have continued to face astonishing hardships in these endeavors. By highlighting the individual experience and human involvement in war, theatre going public perception can be drawn towards an awareness of the individuals who go to war and away from alienating images of and idealized soldier figures fighting for an overarching political cause.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Theatre and Media Arts



Date Submitted


Document Type





Movement-Based Theatre, Physical Theatre, War, Memory, Masculinity