Now that I’ve got your attention… sorry; I hate the words ‘stage combat’! There I said it out loud! To be clear: I don’t hate stage combat. I have just come to dislike the assembly of these two words together used in a common theatrical language to express an art form I believe is so much deeper. Why the dislike I hear you ask?
I believe there is lack of depth that the words ‘stage combat’ offers to truly grasp what is going. By ‘going on’: I mean in terms of the actor's learning and the way in which it is viewed. When conducting a stage combat class, the first thing I will ask the participants is: What are they here to learn? I do this before I use the words stage combat. This question usually elicits responses like: fake fighting and pretend punching. It’s these types of responses that undo the work that has been going on for the last 20 years to develop the art that are hard to stomach. That said – I get it. It’s not real! So, it’s fake and pretend.(watch this spot for a further blog on this)
Some of our practitioners have tried to rebrand it over the years. Staged Combat, Theatrical Fighting, Theatrical Aggression and Acted Aggression just to name a few. But for me none of them really get to the heart of what the art form truly encompasses. To the lay person these two words also negate other areas in our field like; physical comedy, domestic violence, sexual attacks and even some broader uses of what we bring to the table as practitioners in terms of movement.
All that said I don’t know what the answer is and given how much traction the words have gained over the last 50 years I guess we are destined to live with them now. But it highlights that we as practitioners have a duty of care. We have become guardians for the continued education of the broader context for these two words and the responsibility for their greater understanding.