The idea of "physical theatre" is known to have been first presented by the Theatre de Complicite, a leading UK company, yet its origin can be more or less traced back to the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, the founder of Ecole Internationale du Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. The original members of Complicite are all graduates from the Ecole, and, in line with a dramatic success of this company in early 1990s, the name of Lecoq and the concept of "physical theatre" came to exert a considerable influence on the European theatre circle today.

In Japan in contrast, there was a strong movement of Underground Theatres in the 1960s, when actor's body, as opposed to verbal presentation of a text, constituted a focal point for theatrical expression. The word "physical" is generally translated into Japanese as "fleshly", and hence "physical theatre" is often understood in this respect, sometimes even mingled with the images of Underground Theatres. The concept of "physicality", however, covers more than just a flesh. It relates to the treatment of materials, which of course include a human flesh itself, and it is in this broader perspective, such as "materiality" or "corporeality", that physical theatre must be understood.

Having said it, then, what kind of theatre could it be, with "materials", rather than words or a flesh per se, as a key feature for expression? ... Perhaps we might be referred to a mask theatre, in which a theatrical expression rests on a delicate interaction between a mask, as an object material, and actor's body, as a fleshly material. The same could be true for the relationship between a puppet and a puppeteer.

This explains why the said Jacques Lecoq has introduced the techniques of Italian Commedia dell'Arte into his pedagogy. His teaching system concerns about every possible relationship between object materials and human body, and regards it as a primary driving force for theatrical expression. Firmly rooted in a systematic and effective methodology, the physical theatre as such is considered to offer a powerful alternative in contemporary performing arts.