Types of Stage Combat

Updated March 23, 2017

Entertainment is serious business. To effectively engage audience and to ensure success of the show, theatre artists strive to bring realism to their performances. Sometimes performance demands display of violence or fights on stage. It is necessary to keep the action realistic, while ensuring the safety of the performers. This is where stage combat comes in.

Features of Stage Combat

Stage combat refers to the artistic presentation of violence on stage. It is a specialised area of choreography that aims to keep the fight realistic, while ensuring safety of the participants. A fight director is responsible for the stage combat techniques used in a play. The fight director works with the director to ensure that the stage combat is in line with the director's overall vision for the production. A fight director usually has a background in training and knowledge of martial arts.

Stage Combat Techniques

Stage combat techniques are used to depict various violent events on stage. These could be unarmed or armed combat for an event from Shakespeare's plays or a modern gang street fight. Whatever the requirement, the aim of stage combat techniques is to create an illusion of violence by employing methods that are safe for actors. Stage combat techniques are based on the actual combat techniques with well thought out and rehearsed masking effects.

Unarmed Stage Combat

Unarmed stage combat includes fights involving illusory slaps, punches and strangling. The uniqueness of stage combat technique lies in its ability to create an illusion of a slap without making contact with the victim's face. The attacker and victim stand at one and half arm length from each other. The attacker makes a motion of the slap, past the victim's face, without making contact. Simultaneously, the victim makes a clap sound with his hands that are at waist level, hidden from the audience. For effective strangling, the attacker places his hands on the victim's collar bone and the victim holds on the wrist of the attacker, keeping him in place. The rest depends on the facial expressions of both the attacker and the victim.

Armed Stage Combat

Armed stage combat includes various types of fencing, sword play and stabbing. Basic sword attacks and parries are modified in stage combat to ensure the well being of the actors. The basic rule is not to bring the weapon in front of the face. Various attacking actions are either extended past the partner's body or stopped short of the targeted area. For portrayal of realistic stabbing, the attacker places a hand on the victim's shoulder, the other hand with an appropriate knife coming towards the stomach. The victim bends over, closing in on the attacker's hand and masks the impact of the knife from the audience. The next step is to act as if he has been stabbed severely.

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About the Author

Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.