Thursday, 26 May 2016

Highlights of the Festival Workshop “Stage Combat 101” with Joshua Bainbridge

Joshua Bainbridge led our second Festival workshop: Stage Combat 101.  Here are a few highlights of the workshop as recorded by Bruce Pitkin, Executive Director of Theatre Ontario (as you can imagine, it’s far more easily appreciated as a participant than a reader).

General Principles

  • Need to know about your set and furniture. 
  • Want to make everyone feel comfortable with stage combat. 
  • Ask for everyone to be 100 per cent committed to safety. 
  • All combat based on the three 'S's: safety, story, style. 
  • Core basics of stage combat: a nap is the audible illusion of combat. 
  • First person or Aggressor nap where the aggressor creates the sound. Demonstrates. 
  • Second person or victim nap. Demonstrates. 
  • Contact or shared nap. Demonstrates. 
General rule, for every second of stage combat, you need one hour of rehearsal time. You also need to practice the combat sequence in the warm-up before every show. Keep alert and safe.

Another nap that occurs with every move, the vocal or audio nap. It sells the move to the audience and it adds a visceral dynamic to the storytelling, reflecting the intentions of the characters.

Safe way to take a slap or a punch and then going to your knees. 
Turning and going gently onto one knee, then the other. Most gentle way of going down. 

Pulls and drags

  • Never put pressure on someone's joint. Safety first. 
  • Victim is always the leader in leading the action.
  • Eye contact is essential. 

Paw grip

  • Demonstrates. The victim holds onto the hand and guides the movement. 
  • The victim may release at any moment and is entirely in control of the pairs movement. 

The slap

  • A person should never be actually slapped on stage. Create the illusion of the slap. 
  • First slap is an open hand slap. 
  • Demonstrates creating the illusion of a slap in the face, but the hand never crosses in front of the face. Start at chest level.  
  • Victim presents open palm at chest level for the nap. 
  • Group practises the slap with victim nap. 
  • Masking the slap by following through to protect the face. This depends on the story you're telling. 

Cross punch

  • Demonstrates. Standard fight stance is used since it is the best centre of gravity. 
  • Used whenever you go into any fight. 
  • Assume fight stance to throw a punch. Eye contact ensures visual cue for scene partners. Feet placement. Arm and hand placement. Use an aggressor nap with cupped hand contacting upper chest. Keep distance from victim. 
  • Practice. 

Hinge punch

  • Opening the arm up at the elbow, like a hinge. 
  • Often used in comedic fight situations. 


  • Pushing is really simple. Aggressor assumes fight stance, then places palms on upper chest and shoulders. Victim pushes self off of aggressors hands. Victim controls the movement. Add the audio nap. 


  • Throat choke. Aggressor lines hands up in a 'V' shape and places this on upper chest over collar bone. Victim grabs these hands and pulls then to their chest. Victims  controls the movement and speed. Create the illusion of the chin being pulled down. 

Rear choke

  • Depends on the height difference between the actors.
  • Aggressor comes from behind, assuming a strong fight stance. Wrap arm around the victims upper chest. Victim grabs arm, places chin in elbow nook and controls the movement, as the choke action goes slowly down to the floor. Add audio nap. Be especially careful not let the choke ride unto the forearm. 

No comments:

Post a Comment