Dynamic Tensions: The Physical Culture Theatre Show & the Global Transmission of Health, Fitness, & Manliness
In the 19th and early 20th century, physical fitness was spread internationally through theatrical performances, which included weightlifting, wrestling, strongman acts, gymnastics, and posing. The ‘physical culture show’ combined spectacle and lecture, with the ‘science’ of bodily self-improvement sitting alongside theatrical and sometimes freakish displays. International tours of such performances served to broadcast the message of physical culture worldwide. While physical culturists aimed to serve the world by spreading the gospel of health and strength, they also invented and spread models of modern masculine identity.
Image: George Hackenschmidt, photographer unknown, from The George Hackenschmidt Collection, H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, University of Texas at Austin.
Dynamic Tensions is a performance that flexes the memory of the physical culture spectacular, deconstructing its messages of health, strength, and manliness to find other, less dominant narratives of bodies and gender that have always been worked out through physical practice. It features a cast of performers, athletes, and fitness professionals, performing exercise demonstrations, weightlifting, strength feats, gymnastics, and posing. Looking to the theatrical origins of physical fitness, Dynamic Tensions establishes the performative nature of masculine identities built through fitness regimes both historical and modern. It examines how a male bodily ideal interacts with global racial and sexual identities, and how the practice of physical culture can be a site for new identities to be built.
The performance is written and directed by Broderick Chow.
Philip Bedwell (Performer) is a London based performance artist and fitness professional. He has a physical background, having been brought up in a manual labour household and taking an interest in the Martial Arts. He had a twenty-two-year career as a professional wrestler, wrestling throughout Europe and America. Philip’s practice currently focuses on the body and explores the themes of masculinity and wellbeing in society.
Broderick D.V. Chow (Writer/Director/Performer) is Senior Lecturer in Theatre at Brunel University London and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded project Dynamic Tensions: New Masculinities in the Performance of Fitness. His artistic and scholarly work explores the intersections of performance and sport, and he is also an amateur Olympic Weightlifter and BWL Level 1 Coach. He is co-editor of Performance and Professional Wrestling (Routledge, 2016), and has published in journals including TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, and Contemporary Theatre Review.
Jonathan Hinton (Performer) is a physical performer and former semi-professional rugby player and national level athlete. Jonathan now uses the physicality and mental attitude that he has developed from sport to influences his creative work. Jonathan was trained at the University of Gloucestershire and Rose Bruford Drama School.
Sally Goodworth (Pianist) is currently Music Coordinator at Brunel University London where her many roles include Musical Direction, piano teaching, accompaniment and instrumental and vocal and choral coaching. In addition, she is also a staff accompanist for the RAF, Oxford Flute Summer School, Berkshire Maestros and the London College of Music. Sally is a former lecturer in keyboard skills and piano pedagogy at Reading University and amongst other various musical activities played on the soundtrack of the film She’s Been Away, and the last ever episode of Poirot.
Kélina Gotman (Panel Chair) teaches Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London. She writes regularly on the history and philosophy of theatre and dance, cultural history, writing, translation, and the history and theory of disciplines and institutions. She is author of Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, Studies in Dance Theory) and Essays on Theatre and Change: Towards a Poetics Of (forthcoming, Routledge). She has collaborated on over two dozen dance, theatre, and experimental opera productions in Europe and North America, as a translator, dramaturg, performer, director, writer, designer, movement director and curator.
Adam Johnson (Performer) studies Theatre and Creative Writing at Brunel University London and has been involved in numerous shows with the National Youth Music Theatre, including Sweet Charity and Sunday in the Park with George. He is currently co-writing a new musical, The Dysfunctional Guide to a Third Wheel, as well as a YA novel, You Can't Fight the Fire.
Kristian McPhee (Panelist/Coach) has won three British titles in Olympic Weightlifting and is the head coach for the Brunel University Student team. He has a background in a number of sports and physical practices, ranging from dancing, rock climbing, skiing and a lengthy period in Parkour performance and coaching.
Peter Moore (Performer) was born in New Zealand to an English father and New Zealand mother. Near the end of high school, he developed an interest in bodybuilding, and began training seriously. After two years, he started work for a male dance show on the weekend, and during the week worked as a personal trainer helping people with their own physical journey. In his late twenties, he moved to London to study drama and perform in theatre. At thirty-four, he is currently preparing to enter a run of bodybuilding competitions in England and America.
Phoebe Ransome (Performer) is going into her third year studying Theatre at Brunel University London. She has only recently discovered a passion for weightlifting that elevates her regular gym routine. She is part of the National Youth Theatre and plans to audition for a postgraduate degree at a conservatoire this year after creating a musical dissertation performance.
Jack Robinson (Performer) is a third-year Theatre and Creative Writing student at Brunel University London. He has performed in many amateur productions back home in Leicester and continues to gain experience during his time at the university. He’s keen on Musical Theatre and looks to broaden his spectrum of media by experimenting with styles. Alongside his degree, he finds time for sport, representing the university in Futsal.
Andrea Sangiovanni (Panelist) Professor Andrea Sangiovanni received his BA and PhD from Harvard University. Before joining the Philosophy Department at King’s College London (in 2007), he was a Randall Dillard Research Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge (2005-2007). He writes mainly in moral, political, and legal philosophy, but he also has interests in early-modern political thought. His book, Humanity Without Dignity: Moral Equality, Respect, and Human Rights, has recently been published by Harvard University Press (2017).