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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsI'm Jonathan Pitches. I'm chair in theatre and performance in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds. Actor training has proliferated all over the world in the last century, but our focus is going to be on the Russian tradition of actor training. The course is about the training techniques used by Soviet actors in the 1920s, which is still being used today all over the world. It's designed to give you a taste of the techniques of the master director Vsevolod Meyerhold. And most importantly, it's about the relationship of those techniques to the history and politics of the region at the time.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsBy studying on this course you'll learn about the rich tradition of actor training, about the Russian tradition, and about how Meyerhold actually taught his biomechanics at the time. You'll also get to practise some of his specific techniques, including actions taken from one of his etudes or physical studies. Finally, you will document experience, learning how to reflect on the relationship between the physical and the historical. It's a very dynamic way of exploring history. You might call it history through the body.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsPrimarily, this is a course aimed at those with a passion for 20th century theatre. It may be particularly applicable to those who've studied Meyerhold's teacher Stanislavski at A-level, or perhaps those on theatre and performance undergraduate programmes. There's also a broader appeal to this course, which might relate to Russian studies, cultural studies, or even history. The course isn't intended as a training in itself, but as a taster of the practical techniques which have inspired actors in the 1920s and are still inspiring theatre directors and actors today. I've been teaching and researching actor training for almost 20 years now.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 second And each year I'm more and more fascinated about how the practicalities of the technique are embedded in the history, politics, and ideology of a particular country. I'm lucky enough to be working in the perfect environment here at stage@leeds to explore this relationship. I'd like you to join with me on this three week course to explore the theory and practise of physical actor training.

About the course

This short three-week course introduces you to world-renowned Russian director Meyerhold’s technique of biomechanics, inviting you to experience first-hand his revolutionary approach to acting – the biomechanical études. You will learn about the techniques and find out more about the history of physical theatre including Meyerhold’s contribution to its development and how, nearly 100 years later, his work is still influencing us today.

Through a mixture of video, animation, interviews with artists, expert panel discussions with professionals, discussion forums and practical exercises you will explore the range of key players in Russian actor training. Meyerhold’s work will be placed in context as an early collaborator with Stanislavsky and a contemporary of Michael Chekhov. You will be introduced to one of his études – a two minute repeatable exercise used to develop balance, awareness and expression. Responding to video guidance you will be invited to explore your own response to this unique approach to training and will share these with the experts and your fellow students. Together we will reflect on these responses, evaluating the importance of Meyerhold’s work today.

What others say

This is a re-run of this highly successful course. Here are just a few of the comments taken from a longer review written by Claire Warden, author of ‘British Avant-Garde Theatre’ who took the course in March 2014

“…I can honestly say that the past week has been a revelation. Not only has the teaching been clear, it has also attacked such a range of ideas in an intellectually rigorous way…”

“I studied alongside students from across the world…The supportive, cross-cultural community…was wholly unexpected and reflected Meyerhold’s transnational intentions”

“An amazing course that has been thoroughly enjoyable and informative”

The following comment is one of many similar comments made by other students who joined the course in March.

“My grateful thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to make such an enriching experience possible - first rate!”


This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. By completing the course you will have achieved 12 hours of CPD time.

This optional formal exam has been set by the team at the University of Leeds and is based on the contents of the course. You will be able to sit the exam at various test centres across the world after the end of the course. You can choose from exam dates between Monday 9 March and Sunday 29 March.


The course is for anyone interested in physical theatre. You may be a student at school or college thinking of going on to university or you may be at university wanting to widen your areas of interest and experience. Alternatively, you may be a teacher, an actor or theatre professional or a life-long learner in the performing arts with an active curiosity for history and theatre training.

There will be some movement work, so students need to be of sound physical health, but the physical actions to be explored in the course are manageable for anyone with an average capacity for movement – lifting the arms, rotating the hips, shifting weight from one leg to the next. No previous experience of physical theatre is necessary.

Get a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can show that you’ve taken part in this course by buying a Statement of Participation. Or take an optional exam at a test centre near you, to prove what you’ve learnt and earn a Statement of Attainment.