BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Applied Theatre: Theatre in Prisons

Unit code DRAM30111
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


 Applied Theatre: Prisons is an intensive, professional-standard practical module that provides training in drama and theatre workshop techniques, game playing, devising and performing within the context of prisons and the criminal justice system. Students engage in both a practical and theoretical exploration of this context of work. Possible working and placement opportunities include: HMP Risley, HMP Lancaster Farms, HMP Buckley Hall, HMP Styal and HMP Thorn Cross

Students will participate in:
Workshops in appropriate theatrical skills
Seminars about issues/ideas in the criminal justice system
A residency in a local secure establishment

Students will be expected to:
*Devise and run workshops in prison and probation settings
*Prepare and participate in seminars on related issues in the criminal justice system
*Undertake appropriate evaluation and monitoring of work
*Maintain a regular logbook of all work


Pre-requisite units


Theatre and Performance 1 OR Theatre and Performance 2 OR Performance Practices 1 OR Performance Practices 2

Practitioner in Context 1 OR Practitioners in Context 2 OR Screen, Culture and Society


Co-requisite units


Drama Dissertation/Research Essay




·         To introduce students to the theory and practice of theatre in criminal justice sites

·         To provide students with an opportunity to conceive, develop, undertake and evaluate a practical project in a criminal justice setting, under supervision

·         To provide students with practical and seminar-based opportunities to encounter best practice, engage with leading professional practitioners and explore cutting-edge research in the field

To prepare students for professional work in the field of applied theatre


Indicative syllabus (representative only – all of the topics listed below may not be covered every year):


Week 1: Course introduction; institutional tourism and the ethics of prison practice

Week 2: Models of Practice – What’s The Point?  Issues Based Practice, Play Making or Therapy?

Week 3: The Residency Experience

Week 4: Facilitation, Devising and Psychodrama; Security and Safeguarding

Week 5: Desistance and the Arts; Face to Face Encounters

Week 6: Research Presentations; Practical Training

Week 7: Practical Training

Week 8 – 11: Prison Residencies

Week 12: Final Research Presentations

Teaching and learning methods

The course is taught via:

·         Training workshops, focusing on theatre games and exercises and creative approaches appropriate for working in secure settings

·         Lectures from course leaders and practical trainings from visiting practitioners

·         Discussion and group exercises engaging with course readings/materials


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

·         examine and test in practice some of the key aims and principles that underpin the devising of a criminal justice theatre programme

·         develop well-planned strategies for collaborative group work

·         research, devise and present a theatre programme for a specified prison population or criminal justice establishment

·         apply creative techniques imaginatively for engaging prisoners in participatory theatre

demonstrate a critical understanding of the working of professional prison theatre companies and of the development of the field in Britain

Intellectual skills

·         demonstrate that they can systematically draw theory and practice together both in their project and in their writing;

·         critically analyse and evaluate their own and other’s creative work, and draw on feedback to develop and refine ideas and approaches

undertake sustained research and reflective writing demonstrating a critical and self-reflexive understanding of creative theatre processes

Practical skills

·         engage in informed discussions with leading professional practitioners

·         design workshops and understand the principles involved in designing a workshop programme

·         facilitate a groupwork process involving theatre and drama

·         use reflexivity to undertake self evaluation

·         grasp and effectively apply ethical principles and practices in the area of theatre and criminal justice

demonstrate awareness of and apply professional standards in the area of theatre and criminal justice

Transferable skills and personal qualities

·         Advanced interpersonal communication and team-working skills

·         Critical thinking skills and creative group-work practice skills (problem-solving, thinking innovatively, drawing on creative approaches of others, evaluating arguments, giving and receiving feedback, time-keeping)

·         Using effective leadership and group-work skills to solve complex problems

Performing with confidence and precision for specific audiences/contexts, making use of diverse creative approaches and media

Employability skills

Group/team working
Ability to work independently and as part of a group to conceive, plan, undertake and evaluate original, well-developed projects that involve complex and unpredictable scenarios; ability to work independently and as part of a group to solve problems arising from engaging with challenging and unpredictable scenarios
Project management
Advanced skills in group-work, leadership, reflexivity, planning and project management
Understanding of and adherence to industry-level professional and ethical standards in practical work; ability to develop informed critique of professional practice (own and others); development of a professional identity and skills/knowledge base to inform further training and learning

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Group residency – planning and delivering a theatre project in a secure setting


3 days approx


Group presentations (2) – pre-residency and post-residency


15-20 minutes each


Reflective journal and exit tutorial – Individual presentation, assessed via exit tutorial based on reflective journal (students are expected to make 10 posts onto a reflective blog during the course), independent research, and evaluation of their own performance during the residency


Guideline minimum for journal entries: 3000 words

Exit tutorial 12-15mins


Reflective journal drafts


Guideline minimum: 300 words per entry



Feedback methods

Full written feedback on all assessments

Recommended reading

Baim, C. & Brookes, S. & Mountford, A. (2002) The Geese Theatre Handbook: Drama

with Offenders and People at Risk. Sheffield: Waterside Press

Balfour, B. Theatre in Prison: Theory and Practice. Exeter: Intellect 2004,

Crowley, M. (2012) Behind the Lines: Creative Writing with Offenders and People at

Risk. Sheffield: Waterside Press

Johnston, C. (2010) Drama Games for Those Who Like to Say No. London: Nick Hern


McAvinchey, C. (2011) Theatre & Prison. London: Palgrave MacMillan

Shailor, J. (ed) (2011)  Performing New Lives, London: Jessica Kingsley 

Thompson, J. ed. (1998) Prison Theatre: Perspectives and Practices London: Jessica Kingsley

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 88
Placement hours
Placement 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 294

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Simon Ruding Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Only open to Drama students (Single and Joint Honours)

Do not add this project course to your options unless you have been given permission to do so.


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