Background: First Physical Theatre Company
The First Physical Theatre Company was established in 1993 as an associated non- profit performing arts company of Rhodes University. The Artistic Director, Gary Gordon, is regarded as a pioneer in South African theatre, has worked internationally in the fields of performance, choreography, and education, and has received numerous prestigious accolades and awards.
Based in "Africa's Festival Capital" in Grahamstown, First Physical is the only professional theatre company in the Eastern Cape which has a history of ten years delivering world class performance programmes while maintaining a national profile in education and development. Physical Theatre has become an important component in the performing arts industry, largely due to the influence of the First Physical Theatre Company.
The company has produced over ninety original theatre works including six major full- length danceplays. With a commitment to producing work for a South African audience, touring has included performances in Cape Town, Durban, Knysna, East London, Grahamstown, Hogsback, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Stellenbosch. Professional residencies and workshops have extended the company's impact in Alice, Bloemfontein, Lady Grey, Mdantsane, Pietermaritzburg, and several rural communities in the Eastern Cape. The company has also performed in Botswana and France, and residencies have been conducted in Denmark and the UK.
Commenting on a work produced by the First Physical Theatre Company, entitled ‘Bessie's Head’, Ryan Fortune in his Cape Times column House of Truth wrote:
"... it ranks in my mind as one of the most intelligent dance pieces to be seen in Cape Town in a long time ... First Physical is streets ahead of any other dance group I have seen in these parts in over a year ... [the performers] are not obfuscated by some trendy esoteric theme, such as urban terrorism in Cape Town or millennium madness, or hamstrung by the flowing costumes of a work conveniently culled from the European canon, but have achieved the feat of getting into the heads of real people caught up in the topsy-turvy world that was, and is, South Africa"
Alan Parker 2008
The First Physical Theatre Company has been widely recognised for its artistic and education work. Gary Gordon has been the recipient of the 1994 FNB Vita Choreographer of the Year Award, the 1996 FNB Vita Award for Most Outstanding Presentation of an Original Contemporary Dance Work, and an FNB Vita Special Award for Choreography in 2000. He was also the recipient of the Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000, the 1989 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance, and the Eastern Cape Premier's Award for Choreographic Excellence. The company has won two Standard Bank National Arts Festival Awards for Most Outstanding Poster Design. Aside from the company's usual touring destinations, First Physical has received numerous commissions and invitations including:
Amahlathi Festival, Stutterheim Arts Alive Festival, Johannesburg Eastern Cape Schools' Festival, Port Elizabeth Free State Schools' Festival, Bloemfontein FNB Vita Dance Indaba, Cape Town FNB Vita Dance Shongololo, Durban FNB Vita Dance Umdudo, Grahamstown FNB Dance Umbrella, Johannesburg Hogsback Festival Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, Durban UCT Little Theatre, Cape Town Maitisong Festival, Gaborone, Botswana National Arts Festival, Grahamstown National Schools' Festival Nederburg Knysna Arts Festival Pick of the Fringe, Cape Town Rhodes University Centenary St Anne's Theatre Festival Stellenbosch Summer Festival Turn of the Century Festival, France UCT Drama School, Cape Town UPE Kultura, Port Elizabeth Women's Arts Festival, Durban Maititsong Festival, Gaberone
Fear and Laughter 2005
"Grahamstown proved to be the breeding ground of one of the most invigorating and inspiring dance companies in South Africa ... First Physical Theatre Company" (Hayley McClaren, SA Dance Magazine)
"First Physical ... has established a reputation for consistently innovative theatre and often startling choreography ... ten years later, it's clear they haven't lost their touch" (Jocelyn Newmarch, iafrica.com)
"The masters of physical theatre in South Africa ... at the cutting edge of South African choreography" (Cathryn Pearman, Jol Online)
"Consistent excellence ... First Physical has exerted a far-reaching influence on South African theatre and dance" (Acty Tang, This Day)
"A strong talented company working together with exquisite timing to create some of the most fluid physical theatre I have seen in a long time." (Tracey Delport, Daily Dispatch)
"Translating abstractions into dance and drama is a hallmark of Gary Gordon's art, and it is something he has bought to ever increasing heights of achievement." (Beverley Brommert, Cape Argus)
"[Gary] Gordon is guru of the innovative. To see him work with his company, producing often quixotic results in unfamiliar territories, is an enlightening and nourishing experience." (Claire Bezuidenhout, Independent on Saturday)
"Gary Gordon ... is undoubtedly the doyen of physical theatre training and stage creation in South Africa." (Guy Willoughby, Mail & Guardian)
"Choreographic composition, compounded vocabulary and crafting of the highest order ... the fruits of meaningful collaboration." (Adrienne Sichel, The Star)
She had a Sinking Feeling 2004
In 2003 the company was recognised as an Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) of the President Finalist in the category Best ACT Funded Project. This was in recognition of the company's professional training which has led to the establishment of accredited certificate courses in Professional Performance and in Dance Production. The latter was a skills development course targeting historically disadvantaged performing arts practitioners particularly from the Eastern Cape, which was piloted in 2004 and continued for a second year in 2005 thanks to CreateSA, VW, and the Eastern Cape Department of Arts & Culture.
The company has had several education and development programmes including: BodyForms (An adult dance programme including classes in Ashtanga Yoga, Contemporary Dance, Core Strengthening); a Workshops Programme, Community Dance Classes, Creative Movement Classes, a Workshop Series on Artistic Collaboration, Choreographic Development Programmes, an Apprenticeship Programme, Residency Programmes, Lecture Demonstrations, Schools Dance Classes: Grade 10 - 12, a Summer School, as well as a Youth Company, launched in July 2005.
First Physical also has a range of resources including several manuals, videos, CD's, a CD-Rom and DVD's.
First Physical Theatre Company
C/O Drama Department, PO Box 94, Grahamstown, 6140, South Africa
Tel: (046) 603 8971
Fax: (046) 603 8970
Company Manager: Alan Parker
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com