BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Theatre & Performance 1 - Texts

Unit code DRAM10001
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


Theatre and Performance: Texts introduces you to theatre studies as an academic discipline and gives you the skills to analyse live performance. Focusing on discrete period in history via close readings of play texts, performances, and critical material, it encourages you to think carefully about the development of theatre as an art form and as a way of reflecting on, and creating, social change. Drawing attention to the wide range of contexts which inform both the making of and the understanding of theatre practice, it aims to give you a grounding in key skills (relating to the analysis of play texts, performances and contexts) while also developing their understanding and knowledge of theatre history. The course encourages students to consider contemporary theatre practices in relation to historical precursors, and vice versa.


Available on which programme(s)? All Drama programmes at Level 1
Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)? Yes
Pre-requisite units Not applicable
Co-requisite units Not applicable



  • To engage students with a range of pre-20th century performance texts and associated critical materials.
  • To enhance students’ critical appreciation of play texts, in relation to their performance history as well as potential contemporary relevance.
  • To equip students with key skills related to theatre and performance studies.


Indicative syllabus:


The module offers an introduction to theatre texts and performances, and is taught through lectures and seminars. The module is designed to introduce students to performance and textual analysis methods; to expand their knowledge and understanding of performance pre-1950; and to equip students with a basic knowledge of key terminology, dramaturgical and critical positions.

Introductory lectures and seminars (weeks 1-2) introduce students to key principles in theatre studies and embed them through the viewing and discussion of live performances.

The rest of the course is structured in chronological blocks that cover notable periods in pre-20th Century, Western theatre history (indicative examples might include: Greek theatre and Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre) and contemporary responses to these periods. Covering a range of performance texts and associated critical material, each block of the course will consider the following issues

(1)    Historical background.

(2)    Theatrical context.

(3)    Dramatic form.

(4)    Elements of content.

(5)    Legacies: adaptation and reinterpretation.

The course aims to encourage students to think actively about what constitutes theatre as a distinct art form. It introduces students to basic strategies for analysing live performance. It also asks students to think critically about analysing performance contexts, both contemporary and historical (be they theatrical/architectural, geographic/community-based, political/historical, et cetera.). All of this takes place while paying close attention to the dramatic text, and the ways in which it is both shaped by and responsive to its theatrical and historical contexts.

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught via a weekly lecture (1 hour) and seminar (90 minutes). The course will also involve screenings and at least one theatre trip. Summative assessments will focus on individual writing, while a formative assessment will begin to develop groupwork skills.


The course unit will be complemented by a Blackboard site that conforms to minimum requirements including a course handbook, weekly course breakdown, provision of reading material, reading lists. Supplementary material from workshops will be added as appropriate. The blackboard site will be prepared and available to students at least one week prior to the beginning of the first teaching week each semester.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the multiple ways in which theatrical performances are ‘read’ by spectators.
  • Articulate a clear and detailed understanding of how plays and performances are shaped by, and speak to, their theatrical and historical contexts.
  • Position a work of theatre in its cultural and performance context.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse theatre and performance using a range of key disciplinary skills.
  • Identify key features of playtexts and performances and analyse these in detail.
  • Understand and explore the relationships between playtext, performance, and context.
  • Synthesise and connect a range of source materials and contexts in order to develop detailed understandings of primary texts.

Practical skills

  • Communicate understanding of course materials effectively in both speech (as evidenced through seminar participation) and writing (as evidenced by summative assessments).
  • Develop a clear, coherent and critical interpretive argument.


  • Use library to retrieve and use sources to evidence and develop academic arguments, including newspaper reviews, academic articles and books.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Ability to analyse concepts, techniques, methods, study materials (et cetera) independently and with others
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to draw on individual research preparation to engage in discussions in learning environments
  • Ability to present self effectively – through discussion, presentation and in writing (including adherence to academic conventions)

Employability skills

Analytical skills
¿ Ability to engage productively with intellectual challenges ¿ Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
Group/team working
¿ Working productively as part of a group and independently
¿ Planning skills ¿ developing a planned approach to tasks ¿ Time management skills - working to deadlines and under pressure

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Performance Review


1800-2000 words


Bibliographic Assignment, to include a discussion of TWO scholarly works relevant to essay question and Essay



600 words maximum (300 words per source; 2 sources required)

2200-2500 words


Short performance review in Wk 3 or 4 (depending on theatre trips). Students bring these to class and the tutor gives written feedback

Discussion of one academic source in Week 8 or 9. Students bring these to class and discuss in pairs with input from tutor





300 words


300 words



Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative or Summative
Written feedback on both assignments Summatve
Oral feedback on group formative presentations Formative
Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment) Summative


Recommended reading

Allain, Paul and Jen Harvie. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance. (Routledge, 2006.)

Counsell, Colin and Laurie Wolf, ed. Performance Analysis: An Introductory Coursebook. (Routledge, 2001)

Robert Leach, Theatre studies: the basics. (2nd edition, Routledge 2013)

Mick Wallis & Simon Shepherd, Studying Plays (3rd edition, Bloomsbury, 2010)

W.B. Worthen (ed) Th Wadsworth Anthology of Drama (4th edition, Wadsworth, 2003)

Zarilli, Phillip B. et al. Theatre Histories: An Introduction. (Routledge, 2006.)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 15
Seminars 15
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katharine Dorney Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Schedule Activity Hours: Includes visits to one or more theatre production in the Manchester area.


Independent Study Hours: Includes 1.5 day preparation time per week and preparation for summative assessment.


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